The reissue of the Guns‘ self-titled LP is another case of how the DIY movement began a march down a hole from which I doubt we’ll ever escape. Once bands and artists began using recorders to capture their performances — starting with your basic cassette unit and continuing through to today’s pocket-sized units that can store a lifetime of gigs — the possibility of “lost material” became infinite.
While we may have finally reached the end of the road with rockabilly and ’60s garage acts, there’s now the treasure trove of late ’70s and early punk acts to begin unearthing. What started with Killed By Death and Bloodstains compilations has now become a sub-industry, with entire labels (Last Laugh, Sing Sing, and Cheap Rewards to name but three) devoted to reissuing lost releases. Hell, in some cases, these labels are putting out recordings that never made it past dubbed cassettes passed around by friends.
This double LP from Smog Veil Records is a collection of compilation appearances, demos, and live recordings from the Cleveland hardcore act. The first LP’s worth are more listenable than the second, which gets a tad repetitive in its attempt to be as complete a discography as possible. The music is good, if not out-and-out excellent. You’ll hear elements of nascent thrash in a few of the cuts, but for the most part, this is a sneering bit of ’80s hardcore.
The Midwesten sound comes through loud and clear, with a definite bit of fellow Cleveland-ites the Dead Boys in the vocal delivery. It’s pretty straightforward early ’80s hardcore. There’s a certain amount of surf in the guitars, which always seemed to come through, no matter whether the band was from the West Coast or Midwest. My explanation as to why so many acts swiped that manner of chord progression is simply that the only bands that ever played as fast as hardcore acts were surf bands.
Being as how there are multiple takes of some of the songs (four versions of “Locked Inside” alone), you can hear the group progress as the compilation goes along, following the standard Black Flag template. Songs exist as short, sharp shocks at the beginning, going into slower, almost-plodding Sabbath dirges by the end.
While I appreciate the desire towards a completest aesthetic, a single LP with the best cuts would make for a far more enjoyable listening experience. That being said, you can take the download and monkey around with your perfect version. If you want the gritty, live experience, or the streamlined studio experience, it’s all there for the making.
The Guns’ record comes as a double LP with free download code. It’s a one-time-only pressing of 900 copies. Pick it up in the Smog Veil store.