Rocket From the Tombs, the Cleveland band that featured a pre-Pere Ubu David Thomas and future members of the Dead Boys, has been hailed by numerous serious rock critics as overlooked punk and new wave forefathers. They never entered a recording studio, however, and for the most part their scant body of demos and live tapes have been heard only by serious collectors, though some were available on the 1990 album Life Stinks (itself hard to find now). The Day the Earth Met the Rocket From the Tombs does not issue every tape known to exist by the group, and is not perfect from the standpoints of fidelity and performance. The 74-minute disc does, however, finally make a reasonably comprehensive document of their work widely available for the first time. The first half is devoted to a February 1975 loft rehearsal, and though the sound is on the muddy side, the performances raw, and the songs on which David Thomas sings lead afflicted by some indistinct vocals, it's a quite powerful fusion of hard rock, metal, and art rock that in retrospect can be seen to contain some seeds of American punk. Particularly edgy are an early version of "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" (redone to famous effect by Pere Ubu) and the nearly out-of-control "Life Stinks," though the standout number is the unexpectedly melodic, lyrically desperate "Ain't It Fun." The next seven songs, from one of their final shows in July 1975, boast better (though not outstanding) fidelity, and some of their most innovative compositions ("Final Solution" and "Sonic Reducer"), as well as the arcane Velvet Underground cover "Foggy Notion" (at that time impossible to find even on bootleg). Thomas doesn't sing lead on any of the July 1975 numbers but does on all three of the final selections, taken from a May 1975 show, including the future Dead Boys staple "Down in Flames" (with a downright avant-garde instrumental section) and a cover of "Search & Destroy." There are shortcomings to Rocket From the Tombs: some of the songs leaned too heavily on heavy metal and simple outrage, and for all the notoriety attached to the band because of the Pere Ubu and Dead Boys connections, their best moments were actually the more sensitive reflections on troubled youth by Peter Laughner. And there are some imperfections to the package in that it doesn't include all the known Rocket From the Tombs tapes, the excerpts seemingly selected so as not to repeat any song twice (it's also unfortunate that the loft cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" fades out almost as soon as it starts). Yet, in all, this is a release of considerable historical importance and definite musical worth, enhanced by lengthy and knowledgeable liner notes.
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AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger