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CHEAP REWARDS


with Dave Hyde

          I love discovering an old record store that I’ve never been to; rifling through the boxes to see if anything looks interesting or if there’s any old stock sitting around, full of great records that have been passed over for years. There are titles that I see over and over again that I think are brilliant—I can’t comprehend how they’ve been overlooked for so long. One of the things I want to do with this column is highlight some great records that are sitting in dollar bins and might otherwise stay there.

          One of my favorite regular record store finds is the single by German teen-punk superstars, SPEED. Every time I’ve seen their record I’ve placed it in the “to buy” pile of whoever I was with, and I haven’t had a complaint yet.

          Way back in 1969, THE BARBARIANS tunefully asked the question, “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?” In 1996 SPEED definitely did not answer the question. SPEED were a band of German kids who recorded a 5 song demo that ended up in the hands of the head honcho of London’s Sooprize Package zine. To quote his review, “The vocals are by ‘The Acid Head’ Flaky, who looks like a boy but sounds like a…I dunno? Whether FLAKY is a boy waitin’ for his bollocks to drop or one hell of a tomboy makes no difference, who cares?” Regardless of Flaky’s gender, the zine got in touch with the band and released three of those cuts on his Real Records imprint.

          “Speed…is Really All We Need” is a mod-punk-lofi-fuzz masterpiece. The title-track is a snotty dance number with a sing-a-long chorus about what it is that keeps Flaky going. The record is backed with the more aggressive, “Sick Generation” and a rousing cover of the Small Faces’ “Talk to You.” Without a doubt this single is a classic, and does not deserve to sit in stores any longer. I’d guess 500 of these were pressed, and doubt much more than half are in collections today. (Listen to "Speed..Is All We Really Need".)

          A few countries away, THE SPLASH FOUR did all they could to prove that “French punk” was not an oxymoron. In one recording session on August 12, 1995 (that’s a week after my 16th birthday; do the math and mark your calendars cause 26 is coming up fast) the band recorded fifteen songs that would eventually be split up into 4 EPs and some appearances on comps. The band members were avid record collectors with great taste, as evidenced by their choice of covers: The Knots’ “Action,” The Boys’ “Livin’ in the City,” Strychnine’s (France) “Different,” Jolt’s “Everybody’s the Same,” etc. The group’s originals set out to rival the power of their inspirations.

          The first of the EPs released was “Long Finger Olive” on the band’s own Royal Records. The record had four songs including “Take a Ride,” a song in the canon of greatest modern punk songs. After impressing everyone who ended up with one of those records, the band quickly released three more singles: “No One But You” on Larsen, “Girl With No Brain” on Wild Wild Records, and “Different” on Rockarolla Records. The first batch of Wild Wild EPs came with a 1 ¼” button through the sleeve. The Larsen single seems to be the hardest of the batch to find, at least in the USA (maybe it got better distribution in Europe). As an interesting side note, copies of the record on Rockarolla came with a burnt page from a French book inserted in the sleeves. While putting out the record, the label head’s house burnt down. He placed pages from his library into the release as a symbol of future good luck.

          The first time I was with a band that toured through Pittsburgh, I ended up sitting around our host’s porch until the wee hours, talking, drink in hand, about my love for the local heroes, MUD CITY MANGLERS. I think he was shocked that anyone outside of town even knew them, but he was a fan and was happy to answer all of my silly questions. He gave me a lead on getting my own MCM t-shirt, which I grabbed the next morning before leaving town. Their debut EP is a mix tape staple and all around charming record. The two songs, “I Wanna Kill My Friends” and “1234 Motherfucker” are pure no-frills blue collar punk rock—straight to the point, aggressive, and loud. The style is similar to early Nashville Pussy or Hookers, but I think this single might be the genre’s finest moment.

          The single was released on local Republic of Chesterfield records in an edition of 500 copies. After hearing the record, a fan and collector wrote the band asking to do a limited repress of 100 copies on white vinyl. Those copies have proven to be pretty tough to come by. I think there was one more repress after that, since there seemed to be no shortage of copies of the record at Brave New World the last time I was in town. MUD CITY MANGLERS are still going strong and have released an LP and a few more singles. Sadly, I have never seen them. (Listen to: "I Wanna Kill My Friends".)

          In my last column, I talked about the NUBEES single, and EV Records head Ryan Richardson has since mentioned that he regrets not documenting all of the hand-made sleeves that he made for the record. We were talking and decided it’s not too late. So if you’ve got a copy of the NUBEES record please send me a scan or photo of the front cover, and both labels. It’ll be fun to archive the covers and see who’s got them, so if you do, please step up!

          I’m always looking for feedback on the columns and ideas for new ones, so please get in touch and correct my facts or turn me onto some stuff I don’t know. I’d kill for a tape with the complete SPEED demo—can anyone help out? Until next time, remember, speed is really all we need.


-Dave Hyde
cheaprewards-at-gmail-dot-com



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