Perfect Sound Forever


Die Kreuzen
Die Kreuzen

Cows, Beer, Punk Rock and Noise
by Dave Lang (May 2001)

Behind the farce/facade known as "official rock history" there's the groundbreakers and nay-sayers that are far too often swept under the carpet. Over the last decade this has become much less so. Look in your music encyclopedias coming out these days and you'll see entries and glowing praise for everyone from the Red Crayola to the Godz to Black Flag to Mission of Burma; browse through your record racks and you'll see Von Lmo and Debris reissues, and tribute albums to Skip Spence, D. Boon and the Silver Apples. Miracle of miracles, there's even a goddamn 7-CD box set for Funhouse. Ten years ago, such events were near unimaginable.

 Nevertheless, there's always more to discover. More than that, sometimes the best bands have been under your nose the whole time, and you never even took the time to listen. The bands I'm about to write about have been under my nose for many a year and been regular spinners on my turntable for just as long, so I guess it's time for my fingers to finally do the talking. Why? For the same reason that anyone who's really into the music has to do it: to get it out of the way. I'm talking about the secretive, unique world of the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, music scene of the 1980's.

 You may think that for someone from Melbourne, Australia, to write such an article would be sublime, and maybe you'd be right, but for myself the Milwaukee scene of that period, and its four main protagonists - Die Kreuzen, Boy Dirt Car, Vocokesh and F/i - created their own little soundworld that still holds a fascination with me in the same way as, say, LA ca. '77-'84 or Berlin '68-'74 does. Like any other close-knit community of musicians, the four bands in question often shared members and gigs, toured together and did the odd split LP. There's a million similar stories and most of them probably aren't all that interesting to anyone outside of those involved, but the one-of-a-kind sounds created by Die Kreuzen (DK), Boy Dirt Car (BDC) Vocokesh and F/i (err... F/i) are something I'd like to tell you about.

 Milwaukee is situated North-West of Chicago - a few hours drive, I've heard - and is renowned mostly for its beer, snow and Happy Days. Having never been there, I won't make any more such judgments or assumptions. Like many other cities in the US and across the globe, it experienced a punk rock boon in the late '70's that slowly evolved into the hardcore phenomenon of '81/'82. Also, more to the point, like many other cities, by around 1984 things started to change once again. The raging fire of the original hardcore explosion slowly turned to cinders, though in its wake evolved something just as new and exciting. The "post-hardcore" sound comes in a million varieties, though Milwaukee, being semi-isolated that it is (which, considering how close it is to Chicago, I guess it isn't, but let me foster some romantic notions here), birthed a "style" that still sounds a million miles removed from the respective rackets being made in any major cities across the US of A at the time (Wire-y Anglo-punk outta Chi-town; Velvets-y art-noise outta NYC; SST-styled hippie jazz-punk outta L.A., etc.).

 When I interviewed Richard Franecki (ex-F/i, now in Vocokesh) many a year back about "the Milwaukee sound" for some piddly toilet-paper zine I was producing at the time, he responded that somehow a group of misfits from the local punk scene, who all shared a common interest in plundering a weird kind of mix of hardcore punk, psychedelia, krautrock and industrial music managed to find each other and the rest is history. I think that's as good a way to start getting into the meat of this article as just about any, hunh?

 The most "famous" of the bands in question is Die Kreuzen, whom I guess got that way mainly due to their long-running deal with Touch & Go in the '80's 'til their dissolution in '92, as well as their original popularity in the hardcore scene and their willingness to tour (something other Milwaukee acts liked to avoid). Not to downgrade their efforts, however, as their first three albums are still high on my non-existent list as some of the best albums of that decade, so let's get to the meat 'n' bones of the matter.

 Some sort of "official" history of the band is scant, and believe me, I've tried. You'll find scraps, interviews and occasional half-arsed "career rundowns" of DK, but as for the real thing, the why's, who's, what's and where's, you'll have to piece it together yourself. I've got a smattering of interviews with them from ancient hardcore fanzines, but that's about it. Anyhow, starting out in '81 with the same four-piece line-up that'd be with 'em til the end (that's Dan Kubinski on vocals; Keith Brammer on bass; Brian Egeness on guitar; and Eric Tunison on drums), and spurred on by the usual suspects that lit a million flames in their wake (Black Flag, Germs, Minor Threat, etc.), the band was big news in their home town and released their own 7" EP in '82 called Cows and Beer. Somewhat similar to the early efforts of other mid-western hombres such as the Necros and Negative Approach (two other seminal, early Touch & Go bands), they managed to create an awesome din of howling, punked-up thrash that whilst giving off an aura as American as apple pie, corn fields and kicking preppie ass in the pit, also borrowed a touch from the UK school of three-chords-and-you're-out maelstrom pioneered by Discharge and their minions. In other words, it kicked booty.

 Touring round the States at the time, playing with everyone from the Exploited (whom they rightly loathed) to the Flesheaters, they made it back in time in '84 to record their debut LP with Corey Rusk, he being the owner of Touch & Go and one-time Milwaukee resident and Necro. Boasting the awesome cover-art of buddy Richard Kohl, who would subsequently do all their artwork, their self-titled debut long-player is a classic of the original hardcore era (which I guess died in 1984, so they just made it). Fast as heck, and just blistering with that Angry Young Man fist-in-the-air energy that can only be borne from bored-shitless suburban teens, it's a righteous poke in the eye that unfortunately tends to only beckon the odd footnote in the official rock books to this day. I mean, just cop those song titles!: "On the Street," "Fuckups," "In School," "Get 'Em," "Hate Me," "Enemies," "Sick People," and the list goes on! Musically, comparisons don't really come easy. There's elements of US and UK hardcore, for sure, but the howling vocals border on the "industrial" (don't ask me how, just take my word for it) and the chunky, Birthday Party-ish bass lines foreshadow the sound both Steve Albini (an early fan of the group) and Touch & Go would run into the proverbial toilet over the next decade and a half.

Following up was the 1985 sophomore effort, October File, once again recorded by a Mr. Corey Rusk. This is where the radical departure in direction came about, alienating many of the older fans, but unlike many other "radical changes in direction" from rock's past, actually winning them many newer fans, to boot. Let me think of a way of describing this disc without making it sound like a piece of shit, for that it certainly isn't. If I was to say it was bordering on some kind of metallic post-punk with, dare I say, "gothic" flushes, would your stomach churn? Well, like most of their discs, it's hard to put a finger on it. My layman's summation usually results in saying that it's like a bizarre concoction of Black Sabbath, Black Flag, Joy Division and the Birthday Party, so I'll stick to that. Kubinski's throat-lozenge scream from the debut has been replaced with a more Ozzy-like wail, and the pumping 2-minute blaze of the music has been replaced with a more mid-tempo "rock" sound that's part art-rock and part metallic crunch. A strange combination, but the overall effect is superb, and unlike all that lame "crossover" garbage that littered the hardcore scene in the mid to late '80s, Die Kreuzen managed to drop the hardcore tag at a moment's notice, yet pick up the pieces by incorporating elements of arty post-punk, psychedelia and the best of '70's HM (Sabbath, BOC, Hawkwind, etc.) into their music.

 1988's Century Days is usually considered their high point, and I'm not one to disagree. Produced by Butch Vig in his Madison studio at the time, this has long been an all-time fave record of mine. Coming in a fetching gatefold sleeve adorned by Kohl's creepy cover art, for myself there's no other record that captures the spirit of some sort of smalltown mid western alienation like Century Days. In fact, if memory serves correct, I once wrote in a non-drunken review that DK really shoulda done the soundtracks to Blue Velvet and River's Edge, so wonderfully do they musically summate the kind of lumbertown eeriness those films glow. At the time, the critics were divided. Some hailed it as album of the year, others dismissed it as either a shallow sell-out to the college-rock market or merely HM wank. Both are wrong, of course. Track for track, this is unbeatable. From the opening crunch of "Earthquakes" to the acoustic melancholy of "Lean Into It" to the simply incredible ending opus- "Number Three," a stunning 6+ minutes of ghostly crawl that perfectly balances their delicate mix of art-prog and sinewy metallic rock, I'll state my claim again: one of the best albums of the '80's. For the interested, get the CD, as it features the band's version of the Halloween movie theme song as a bonus, and it's a good 'un, too.

 Stop-gap effort time now, so let's make it quick. 1989's Gone Away 12" EP is well worth mentioning. Of course, you've got the slightly disposable B-side, live versions of tracks off their previous two LP's (all good versions and well recorded, mind you), but the A-side is the keeper here, with two new studio tracks. The title number is a "ballad" of sorts to love lost or whatever, that, to my thinking, had it been released a decade later on a major label, with the radically altered post-grunge musical climate, probably woulda been a huge hit for the band, what with its acoustic guitars, catchy melodies and anthemic chorus that bring to mind the best of Black Sabbath's more "moving" material from their classic period. The second track is another keeper, a surprising cover of Aerosmith's "Seasons of Wither," a song I'll admit to being totally unfamiliar with (it's from their mid '70s time-frame, which, despite claims from some that their work from the time represents a sort of highpoint in post-Dolls/pre-punk American rock, I've never checked out... and likely never will). Again, it's kinda cheezy, a little schmaltzy, and friends are usually shocked when I say I like it, but what the hell, the last thing I ever want to be accused of is good taste.

 1990 brought another teaser in the form of a 7" in which the band goes into cover mode and does the Germs and Wire, "Land of Treason" and "Pink Flag" respectively. If I was talking to you about this record right in front of you, person to person, you'd be wiping spittle off your face that I'd be letting forth in excitement as I pronounce to you that THIS IS MY FAVE 7" OF THE 1990's!! Capital letters are as close as I can get in print. To say that covers versions rarely approximate the mightiness of a good original version is a cliche; to say that a cover version shits all over the already mighty original version spat out by the original recording artist is about as rare to these ears as to have never been said before. DK achieves the latter. For the Germs number, think of a kick-ass, tight-as-a-nun's-bun band delivering the punch topped with a spine-shuddering, screeching vocalist, and as for the Wire track, just think of a beefier sound and no annoying fake cockney accent. That'll do.

 1991's Cement, the band's final recording, isn't really worth talking about, for the simple fact that it is neither good nor interesting. It's simply dull rock, too little, too late, with about three good songs. Met with a giant shrug and a yawn at the time of release (even by myself), the band, probably about as uninspired as the record sounds, called it quits. Not a good way for a band to bow out, but that can happen to the best of 'em.

Die Kreuzen seem to be a band that I constantly have to justify liking to various friends, associates and self-styled music-boffin pals of mine, and considering how much I love their music, I'll be damned as to why I feel I have to. I guess it's the "metal" tag that puts many off, and I'll admit that I'm not a fan of the genre in general - it being seemingly littered with either brainless machismo, shockingly dull fret-board masturbation or preening no-dick pretty boys - though to my mind, DK were far more heavy metal in the pre-punk sense of the word, i.e. - hard-arsed no-BS guitar rock. Well, sure, DK had an element of BS, what with the artsy flirtations and all, which I guess puts them in the league of, say, "experimental" metal bands like Voi Vod (a band they were often compared to), but... wait, see what I'm doing? Trying to justify myself again. Old blowhards like Thurston Moore and John Zorn (ED NOTE: unlike you, eh Dave?) still rave about the mightiness of Die Kreuzen, so how 'bout it, eh? Like Charlie Parker once said: there's only two sorts of music - good music and bad music. Die Kreuzen are good music.

When pontificating with music-geek buddies of mine on that very topic that defines their lives, I'm prone to rave on about the-world's-most-legendary-band-that-next-to-no-one-has-ever-heard-of, F/i. The first question I'll be greeted with, is, "What, "Eff-eye"? What or who is that?" At which point I have to respond, "Capital F, forward slash, small I. The name means nothing; legendary Milwaukee space rockers, don'tcha know?" Let me tell you a story...

 In the late '70's in ol' Milwaukee town, self-confessed sci-fi nerd, krautrock enthusiast and all-round nice guy, Richard Franecki, formed The Drag with a friend, Greg Kurczewski. Described as "a Stooges/MC5-type band," The Drag did the rounds like so many others, before Richard split the group and formed The Shemps with Jan Schober, this time veering into a more hardcore direction. As far as I can tell, neither band ever released anything. Around 1982, as The Shemps dissolved, Rick started hanging out and jamming with another local, Brian Wensing, who was intrigued by Franecki's experimental guitar stylings, which he was temporarily putting to use in "a strange surf group," The Surfin' Fuhrers. Sensing a meeting of the minds, both being heavily into the "industrial" scene of the time (TG, SPK, Nurse With Wound, Whitehouse, etc.), they roped in Greg Kurczewski to help form the tape/recording project cryptically known as F/i. Before long shortwave radio buff Steve Zimmerman was involved and they were recording on a regular, nay, weekly basis.

 F/i's tape output was prolific, to say the least. Franecki has noted in interviews that at the height of the "tape culture" craze of the mid-'80s, the band had roughly 15 of their own cassettes out, as well as contributions to literally dozens of compilations. From '82 to '85 their sound mainly concentrated on experimental electronics - from harsh white noise to Mort Subotnik-style keyboard blips to Stockhausen-influenced musique concrete pieces. A lot of the good stuff from this period is documented on the hideously rare 3-LP box set from 1989, Past Darkly Future Brightly, but more on that later. By 1985, things had changed. Reaching for a new direction, the band decided to incorporate elements of rock into their music and professed a new aim in their sound: "Hawkwind + Blue Cheer + harsh electronics." F/i the rock band was born.

 Gaining a rep in the underground tape scene, Ron Lessard of the infamous Massechussetts label, RRR, a longtime fan of the group, asked them to do a split LP with similar Milwaukee noiseniks, Boy Dirt Car. The band said yes and the fantastic and imaginatively titled Boy Dirt Car/F/i Split LP LP was unleashed. More on BDC later, but F/i's side was a godsend: throbbing waves of power electronics and stunning, lunk-headed, fuzzed-out power chords played over a bass-y, low-end rumbling rock beat. They did indeed meet their goal: the ultimate combination of Hawkwind, Blue Cheer and harsh electronics. The shit-hot guitar solo on "Trauma at the Beach," a raucous, orgasmic blast of high-end wah-wah, still gets me. Every time.

 '87's Why Not Now?... Alan! LP, also on RRR, is another goodie. Though the sound's a bit thin (a remastered version with heavier bass antics would hit the spot just nice), it also contains some of their best songs, such as the closing "An Observation: The Eye at the Top of the Pyramid," a lumbering rock drone that hitches the ride like the best of Hawkwind ca. Doremi Fasol Latido, and "Electric Waltz" a galloping two-step number layered with sheets of fuzzed-out string action.

 F/i were on a roll now, and released their best yet with '88's spectacular Space Mantra LP. Again on RRR, it boasted their most ambitious music yet, with the usual mix of Hawkwind/Kraut-inspired rock moves, as well as pulsing electronic pieces (and no mere noodling; we're talking real songs here) and more ethereal numbers, acoustic guitars and the whole shebang. Working like a musical suite - even with the obligatory "reprise" tracks - Space Mantra was hailed at the time by the usual well-meaning folk as a breakthrough work and one of the best truly "psychedelic" albums of its time, and all dozen or so people reading stood up and took notice. And you?

 1989's Paradise Out Here LP was released on the Human Wrechords label, and its elusiveness, small pressing, poor distribution - whatever - has made it pretty much impossible for one to get one's mits on, so instead let's discuss their Past Darkly/Future Lightly triple-LP box from '89 on RRR. It's a killer. Six sides charting the band's evolution from '83 to '89, and featuring all unreleased and rare material, the gamut of sounds here goes the full three-ring circus from white noise, blips and whoops and primitive Chrome-ish rock workouts to the blistering psych-rock that had by then become their trademark sound. Working a roughly 50/50 split between the experimental and rock sides of the group, it's a mighty nice item to look at, observe, sit on the shelf as a trophy, or even to listen to. Limited to a ridiculous 300 copies on its one-off release, it's also a pretty much extinct item at this point in time.

 Following 1990's Blue Star LP on RRR, a part live/part studio gem that basically continued on the well-worn/well-loved vein of Space Mantra, things got a bit sticky in the F/i camp. Richard Franecki quit the band after not wishing to tour and sensing that the group was losing its original experimental focus and simply becoming "another rock band," and so the band forged on without him. F/i also was experiencing problems with their new drummer wanting to become a rock star, and in '92 there was even a "scab" version of F/i (as Mr. Wensing put it) that toured the States, which consisted of the rhythm section of the group and two pick ups.

All Spinal Tap anecdotes aside, there's some good recorded material from the period, namely the Out of Space and Out of Time CD on RRR, a best-of of sorts from their '80's period (still in print and worth every penny) and a live CD called Earthpipe, recorded (mostly) in Germany and released on the RecRec label outta Switzerland in '92. Best of all is the split LP with Richard Franecki's new (at the time) project, Vocokesh, on RRR, a fetching clear-vinyl/clear-plastic-cover item where both bands excel. F/i's side (now sans the drummer that was making their life a misery) is a super blend of outer-space spaghetti western riffs ("Theme for an Industrial Western"), pulsating guitar grooves ("Zombies in the Slave Trade"... yeah, don't ask me about the song titles, OK?) and the stunning "Pleasure Centre/The Beach," which moves like a mixture of early Chrome and early 'Neubauten in a mid-western bar. Tasty.

 Moving it along, there's also their "To Poppy With Love" 7" on SSS from '95, an excellent two-track selection of heavy rifferama, and the unfortunately so-so Helioscopium CD from '98 on the Ceres label, which, despite boasting some top material, also contains its share of duds and has way too much keyboard noodling to hold one's interest throughout.

 F/i are still around and still recording and playing as you read this. A cult band in the true sense of the word, their name means nothing to most, and a lot to some. Their recorded legacy speaks for itself, and given their (currently fashionable) musical mentors (as said, Blue Cheer, Hawkwind, Can, Popol Vuh, Stockhausen, etc.), the best of their '80's/'90's material sounds frighteningly ahead of its time, even if they were working in a rather retro-styled basis in the given period (that is, copping moves from old '70's "head" discs). F/i stalwarts Grant Richter and Brian Wensing are like the living embodiment of the American garage rock mythos: part-time rock'n'rollers with their own band, play the odd gig every year, release the odd album for the faithful that give a shit. Now that is the kinda band I can dig.

Vocokesh, you say? As stated, Vocokesh are the band Richard Franecki started after his split from F/i. His goal: to pursue the original experimental space-rock vision that F/i possessed in the '80s. More to the point, he's been successful in achieving just that, though unfortunately, as with F/i, much of his best material is also long out of print, a situation that will hopefully be rectified in the near future.

 Up first is their debut LP, Ispepnaibara, from 1990 on RRRecords. The title, by the way, is "Arabian Pepsi" back to front (Franecki once noted it as being a "beer-influenced title"...errr, take that as you will). Essentially being a duo of Franecki and old F/i hanger-on Jan Schober, as well as a floating pool of Milwaukee musicians (old F/i dudes like Steve Zimmermann get a gander, Dan Kubinski of Die Kreuzen gets a thanks), Vocokesh, at the time, it could be said, made "the best F/i record F/i hadn't made since Space Mantra," if you get the drift. With Franecki's hugely reverberating surf/space guitar and Buchla 200 series module synthesiser at the fore, the eight tracks presented are at the absolute peak of power, presenting a mighty tasty mix of anthemic (no vocals required, thank you) psychedelic rock action, low-rent noise and twigged-out electro noodling c/o Zimmermann and his short-wave radio. Released in an edition of 1,000 or so on lovely splattered vinyl, and wrapped in a swank clear plastic case (and unfortunately shonky artwork), Ispepnaibara still stands to these ears as one of the stand-up releases of the last decade, and though finding a copy may prove to be a near impossible task, the rewards will be abundant.

 Vocokesh managed to capture the attention of long-time F/i buff Dan Koretsky of the Drag City label at this point in time, so up next for Franecki and the crew was a one-sided 12" EP on that very label, Still Standing In the Same Garden. Once again ensconced in some pretty horrible cover art (the etching on the B-side being no improvement), the sounds within make up for the lack of visual thrills. The sonics? More of the same, meaning I like it. Space/garage rock instrumentals with a surf feel and a bit of electronic wizardry on top. At this stage Vocokesh had pretty much mastered the art.

 As was stated in the F/i part of the article, a split LP was released by RRRecords in '92 between F/i and Vocokesh (Franecki's split was friendly and amicable, no hard feelings, etc.), and this spirit of brotherhood produced an incredible record that played on the more experimental angle of F/i and the more rockist aspects of Vocokesh (which I guess is ironic, since Franecki left F/i because he felt they had gone too "rock"). Three tracks apiece, some lovely fuzzed-out guitar noodlings from Vocokesh, and again, completely and totally out of print.

 This brings us to the second stage in Vocokesh's totally non-existent "career," and "career" it certainly isn't, as Franecki refuses to tour, rarely ever plays live (stating that constant lifting of heavy equipment in the early '80's screwed his back for good) and has often said in interviews that the band is purely a hobby for enjoyment sake, his income coming from his day job as a custodian at the local high school. Anyway, Drag City put out the offer and Vocokesh delivered the goods, '95's Smile! And Look At The Mountain? CD. As for the title, don't ask me, but the music was taken one step further and incorporated elements of early Tangerine Dream-style "cosmic" keyboard moments, ethnic drone (sitar 'n' all) and dark, low-end guitar crashes. Pretty goddamn ace.

 '98's Paradise Revisited, also on Drag City, traveled essentially the same path, though in between the standard space-guitar fare, also concentrated far more heavily on experimental electronics, somewhat to its detriment, in my opinion, as the "rock" in Vocokesh is what makes them so special, and Franecki in particular is a gem at churning out oodles of lovely feedback in his axe. Richard, less keyboards, more fretting, please.

Vocokesh's move to a relatively "big" and "credible" indie label seems to have done zip for their profile, and I think that's OK by them and OK by me. Whilst I'm sure Franecki would love some more attention for his unique sounds, I get a feeling he feels pretty satisfied just knowing that there are people out there listening to his music and digging the trip he's on. If that all sounds a bit homely and quaint in the fast-bucks world of today's indie-rock scene then I'm glad to hear it. The guy will likely still be doing what he's always been doing, long after you've traded all your Palace Brothers records in for a new suit.

Boy Dirt Car... another cryptic name to add to the pile. Whilst we're talking band names, for the record, F/i means absolutely nothing, Vocokesh was the name of an old F/i song (named after Abe "Voco" Kesh, producer of Blue Cheer's debut LP) and Die Kreuzen, for the terminally ignorant, is NOT a pun on "Die Cruising," but "The Cross" in German... or is it "The Crosses"? Just call me terminally ignorant.

 BDC were formed by Darren Brown and Eric Lunde in '81 after the two young punkers met Glenn Branca at a Chicago noise-music festival and were promptly told to DO IT by The Man. Gathering a few friends together for ungodly jams of entirely incompetent "industrial" racket, they knew they were onto something and proceeded to play around town (art-opening riots and the whole nine yards!), with a revolving-door line-up that usually consisted of Brown, Lunde and any drunken and/or drug-addled buddy they could string along. Finally settling on a semi-stable line-up that consisted of the duo and Keith Brammer and Dan Kubinski of Die Kreuzen on various metal percussive instruments and noise-making devices, BDC found their feet and were soon hailed by well-meaning folks as America's answer to Einsterzunde Neubauten.

Supporting an estimable collection of touring bands that passed through Milwaukee in the mid-'80s - everyone from Flipper to Fred Frith to Shockabilly to Screamin' Jay Hawkins(!) - BDC even made a small jaunt up and down the West coast and beyond (from Texas up through to Kansas) with their touring partners Die Kreuzen in '87, where they caught they eyes of not only Jello Biafra (a big fan, but deemed them as "too unpolitical for his label"), but also a young pair of layabouts in Seattle by the names of Kurt Cobain and Buzz Osbourne. As a tribute to BDC's "obvious" influence on the burgeoning grunge movement of the time, they can be found with a song on the Sub Pop 100 compilation LP.

 Recording-wise, recommended are their side to the F/i split LP from 1986, a nice document of lo-fi groan 'n' scrape; their Winter LP on RRR from '87 (totally o/o/p, by the way), which further explores various noises, soundscapes and conspiracy theories in a thoroughly American manner (as with F/i, their "noise" factor was 100% cornbread USA, none of this Euro-coldness deal); and most definitely their Instinctual 3-LP RRR box set, which is a nice retrospective on the band, featuring lots of live and unreleased material that captures them at their grunting best. Somewhat comparable to the Destroy All Monster box that came out some years back, the basement psych/industrial vibe it emits is mighty tasty. Miracle of miracles, it's still in print and available from RRRecords. Also still in print is their Live W/Out a Body double LP, which can only be recommended to masochists, given the ridiculously no-fi quality of the material. An as-yet-unreleased LP by the name of Heat Rig, produced by Victor De Lorenzo of the freaking Violent Femmes(!!) in the late '80's, still sits on the shelf, seemingly unwanted by several labels, despite the band's vehement claims that it's easily the best thing they ever did. Go figure...

 Inactive as a band for many years, Eric Lunde in the meantime released some solo noise stuff and even published a small-press book a few years back that I've never seen, and Darren Brown formed Impact Test, who've done some OK records on RRR that pretty much pick up where BDC left off. Both Lunde and Brown now both live in Minneapolis and are threatening to meet for the first time in 13 years. To quote the ever-pessimistic Darren Brown: "2001 marks the 20th anniversary of Boy Dirt Car. No one is celebrating." BDC are/were well worth both their trouble and yours.

It appears that the tight little "scene" in Milwaukee that produced such an abundance of absolutely unique and compelling music has largely dissipated. Whilst F/i and Vocokesh are still around (and BDC, by the looks of it), Impact Test still continue to release their own albums, and 2nd-generation spin-off bands from the scene like Fuck Face (ex-Die Kreuzen/BDC people) and Shrilltower have an abundance of cassettes, 7"s and other formats out, their general lack of touring and shunning of publicity lends one to believe that they barely exist. As stated at the beginning of the article, there's probably a story just like the above in your hometown: a bunch of guys and gals in rotating line-up groups that release limited-edition records on 11" splattered vinyl for the faithful, and whilst it may not be considered "interesting" or even "worthwhile" to many music fans, for myself it's considered the ultimate modernist folk music. For whatever reason, Milwaukee had/has one of the weirdest and most unique of these little hidden-away "scenes", and if the urge takes you, I thoroughly recommend you investigate.

ENDNOTES: Hey, why not be shameless about it. I went to all this effort so it's time for an ad break... I've started up a rinky-dink record label of my own called Lexicon Devil that's reissuing some of the music mentioned above onto CD. Out already is an F/i CD featuring their side of the BDC split LP, and their Space Mantra LP. It's newly remastered by the band and sounds ace. Out sometime before I die will also be Vocokesh's Ispepnaibara LP and their side of their F/i split LP onto one CD, as well as a bunch of the other F/i LPs on RRR (up next is the 3-LP box as a 2-CD). Write to for any details you may want.

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