Columns - "Under the Radar" 09.20.00

Hey gang, I’m here again to tell you what to buy and stuff. I’d like to lead this off with a request. It’s really the least you could do fer me.

Reactor "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission" LP (Official Records) 1980

A couple years ago I picked up a record (sealed) by "Reactor." Nope, not "Los Reactors" or any other kind of reactoresque doo-doo-howdy. Just "Reactor." This album came out in 1980 on some Tennessee label (probably self-released). Here are the cool things about it: at least four (five on the enclosed poster) bearded guys in "new wave" specs back up a cute-in-a-scary-way pigtailed blond girl; a radioactive theme is present throughout; it contains classic/horrible lines like "what does it matter that I’m eating white sugar when the nuclear plants, they’re committing mass murder?"; it was produced by the "Nuclear Regulatory Commission"; someone named Greg Lowry did the artwork; there’s a mystery person in the poster photo (who appears to be female) who is wearing a gas mask.

Now, this album ain’t great musically. It has the same "charms" as the fake major label "punk" release back in ’77 by Christ Child, but in a keyboard/new wave vein. What’s piqued my curiosity over the years is that NOT ONE PERSON HAS EVER HEARD OF THIS. I’ve asked the top collectors in the world, who’ve passed it along to the top new wave collectors in the world, and nobody has even heard a rumor of it. Any sleuths care to help?

The Cunts "A Decade of Fun 1978-1988" LP (Pravda) 1988

The Cunts are a long-time Chicago garage band who are, I THINK, still around. Ignore whatever new shit you see, cuz it ain’t all that hot. This singles comp, though, is the shit. Rumor has it that they picked this name so they wouldn’t have to play out and to prove that they weren’t in the game for popularity. The album’s top-flight keyboard-driven garage punk with great lyrics and oddball twists and turns. Pravda was a pretty well known label, so I’d guess that a decent amount of these were pressed. It’s a must for anyone into the second-wave garage thing.

Death of Samantha "Strungout on Jargon" LP (Homestead) 1986

DOS put out alotta’ stuff, much of it good. This, the first album, is probably the best place to start. Lead singer John Petkovic has one of "those voices" – yer either gonna’ love him or hate him – part Lou Reed, part snot-caked Iggy. You can definitely hear Cleveland’s rich tradition flowing through this record. It’s kind of a loose Stooges/Ubu/Pink Fairies/Dead Boys stew. Songs like "Sexual Dreaming" and "Coca Cola and Licorice" are among the best trad Midwest rockers to be released in the ‘80s. Killer/baffling lyrical action ta’ boot.

Geraldine "K-Tel Whore" 45 (Anyway) 1996

OK, this one’s pretty recent, but I’m trying to save you dollars down the road, dig? Geraldine is also still around, I think. Nobody ever talks about this band, and from the fugly cover artwork, I can see why no one picks up their records. I only have one other 45 by ‘em, but it’s not unlikely that they’ve released more that I haven’t heard-tell. The A Side of this disk is fucking PRIMO rockin’ punk without any of the annoying trappings associated with many of the nth generation "Rip Off" bands out there right now. It’s as good as anything ever released on the Rip Off label-proper, and the B Side rocks nearly as hard in a less-overt fashion. Don’t be a tool – I found this twice in dollar bins. Another Ohio product.

Alter Boys "Piles" 45 (One Eye) 1986

Whatever you do, DO NOT buy this New York band’s Shernoff-produced LP. This three-songer leads off with one of my favorite tunes of the decade ("Piles"). Great lyrics about being so depressed that drugs, sex and the usual no longer work their magic. I think this tune was described as a faster Joy Division song. Whatever. Dark, brooding and powerful with great and noisy minor chord work. The B Side has a good Stooge-rocker and a cool instro. Not too sure about the availability on this, but few singles from this time period go for a ridiculous amount. Happy huntin’.

The Woggles "Graveyard Woman" 45 (Zontar) 1991

I’ve seen this band quite a few times, and I like ‘em. They have a good-timey garage/Stooge thing going, and the drunker I yam, the better they be. They’ve released a decent amount of product over the years, but all of it bored me. I told this to a pal who pulled this single out and spun it. I was amazed by how great it was. The very next week I was lucky enough to run across it. It’s got four roughly-but-ably produced songs, it’s a numbered edition of 750 and garage fans will be much-stoked when they put the needle down. Not classic, but still pretty great and reasonably easy to find.

That’s all fer now. I have tons more on deck. Feel free to write me at

© 2003