The Endtables

The Endtables

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Louisville, KY was hardly the center of the punk rock universe in 1979, which doubtless has a lot to do with why the Endtables sounded as remarkable as they did. Formed in 1978 and gone two years later, the Endtables were four guys who clearly understood the basic rudiments of punk rock, but hadn't spent enough time obsessing over the details to let it dull their own individual personalities, and this was one band that had individual personality like nobody's business. Guitarist Alex Durig had the fast-loud downstroke style down pat, but he wasn't afraid of letting his metal influences out at the same time (stripped of the pomposity that was weighing down the genre in the day), and the raw, brittle tone of his guitar and the frantic swagger of his soloing make him sound like the lost link between James Williamson and Tony Iommi. Bassist Albert Durig (Alex's brother, and all of 15 when he joined the band) and drummer Steven Jan Humphrey played a beat you could pogo to, but they also gave it plenty of color, with Albert rolling up and down the scale as he held down the bottom end and Humphrey throwing in fractured fills whenever he could. And vocalist and lyricist Steve Rigot was the Endtables' true wild card; given to either dressing in drag or sporting creatively modified clothing on-stage, Rigot's delivery was flat but wildly passionate at the same time, and his lyrics took a playfully surreal look at sex ("White Glove Test," "Circumcision"), society ("They're Guilty," "Process of Elimination") and culture ("The Defectors," "Trick or Treat") in a manner that was funny, literate, and challenging all at once. During the Endtables' short lifetime, they released one four-song EP, and after their breakup, two more songs appeared on a 7", both of which have become ridiculously rare collectors items. This collection from Drag City collects those six songs and an alternate version of "Process of Elimination," as well as six live tracks from a 1979 show at the Louisville School of Art; the show was also videotaped, and Quicktime videos of three songs appear on the CD. Hearing this music 30 years after it was recorded, what stands out most is how raw, exciting, and truly individual the Endtables were; this was punk rock, but punk rock from musicians who were following their own template and observing no rules but their own. Maybe plenty of other bands could play faster and harder, but for sheer liberating freedom and a sense of kids making their own subversive fun, this is one of the most fascinating and rewarding reissues of 2010.

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