Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scratch Acid - the Greatest Gift


Scratch Acid played a huge part in the noisy underground movement of the 1980s; they took punk to the dirtiest, dingiest mudhole they could find and sullied it from top to bottom until it looked and sounded like some hell-bound bogeyman. It's not too far-fetched to think of Scratch Acid as the American equivalent of the Birthday Party, the Texans donning the mantle that was dropped when the BP disbanded. The Greatest Gift contains everything the band ever recorded, including a few lo-fidelity instrumentals. Scratch Acid never received the notice it deserved, but the musicians could pound out brilliantly frenzied and highly original post-punk/noise rock that sometimes rivals the material released by singer David Yow and bassist David Sims' future (and much more well known) project, the Jesus Lizard. The first eight songs were originally released in 1984 as an eponymous EP; from the opening crashing bars of "Cannibal" to the terrifying lyrics heard on "Lay Screaming" (a song which reads like something culled from a medieval book about torture), this band obviously never had any desire to control itself. Only one slight reprieve can be found in the relatively tender "Owner's Lament," a song replete with weeping strings. Songs nine through 20 first saw the light of a sickly day as Just Keep Eating, Scratch Acid's one and only full-length that found the band expanding its musical palette: insane noise rock numbers ("Eyeball," "Holes"), jaunty, faux lounge grooves ("Amicus"), goofy Zeppelin-esque riffs ("Cheese Plug"), and a spot-on cover of the Webber-Rice rocker "Damned for All Time," complete with exclamatory horns. The remainder of the disc comprises the songs from their definitive statement, the 1987 Berserker EP. A little more money went into this recording; as the sound quality is better than on Just Keep Eating, it was definitely worth it. "Mary Had a Little Drug Problem" and "Flying Houses" are whirlwinds of pounding drums, foreboding basslines, and scathing, blinding guitar phrases. The band never played so well or wrote better songs. Highly recommended to any Jesus Lizard fan and noise rock/hardcore punk aficionado.

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