It's hard to believe that back in the early to mid-'70s, the breeding place for such proto-punk/new wave acts like Devo, Pere Ubu, and the Dead Boys was Cleveland, OH. So it's only logical to assume that if those bands existed, there must have been other similar-sounding groups from the region. This hypothesis pans out on Scat's Those Were Different Times, a compilation of three overshadowed Cleveland bands that had the talent and songs to become well-known but never did. Probably because Devo et al. relocated to New York City, where they found fame and recording contracts, while the Mirrors, Electric Eels, and the Styrenes stayed put and remained anonymous outside their hometown. This 29-track, 76-minute release (with purposely clunky CD packaging) collects lo-fi demos and live takes from these obscure bands, as well as extensive pictures and liner notes. We find out that the Cleveland scene was a close-knit one, with the three above-mentioned groups swapping songs and bandmembers, and playing many a show together. The Mirrors were a band that had no problem with showing off their Velvet Underground influence on tracks like "How Could I" and "Annie," while the music to "You Me Love" sounds like a precursor to the style Elvis Costello would flaunt early in his recording career. The Electric Eels were an in-your-face punk band whose singer, Dave E. MacManus, sounds almost identical to original Black Flag/Circle Jerks frontman Keith Morris. On first listen, the live track "Spinach Blasters" may be misconstrued as a racist attack with its repeated epithets, but the band got the lyrics from a blasphemous pro-Nazi newsletter they spotted, and wanted to confront and show their audience how ridiculous racism is. An important catalyst for Electric Eels songs was noise, as evidenced on all of their tracks (especially "Wreck & Roll"). The final band on the compilation, the Styrenes, can be compared to fledgling Talking Heads on the tracks "Draw the Curtain" and "Mr. Crab," while singer/guitarist Paul Marotta also adds spacy keyboards to a few of his electronic experiments ("You're Trash"). These bands deserve your attention, since their material proves to be much more than just a curiosity. This is music that should have been heard blaring out of CBGB's back in the '70s.
Share this page