MX-80 SoundOut Of Control
Released 1995 on Quadruped
Reviewed by Lawrence, 09/03/2005ce
The MX-80 Sound were one of those bands ahead of their time. I suspect they were a main influence on Sonic Youth, the Swans and Live Skull among others. MX-80 played rather dissonant, discordant heavy-rock. The main influence you hear is Captain Beefheart and the Stooges, although with some elements of Pere Ubu, Television and even early Siouxsie and the Banshees, and sometimes even managing to sound uncannily like Joy Division. There seems to be quite alot of sarcastic working-class humor here as well, with Richard Stim intoning the lyrics in a mock matter-of-fact monotone which now reminds me of Wolf Eyes.
I first heard them the very first time I heard college radio -- 1981, and there was an interview with the band when I tuned in. Interesting comments such as "I don't think we are as weird as the music I find myself listening to." This was considerably different from much of what was 'new wave' that year -- darker and even more satirical than Devo. So I managed to find both those albums in question. (Hard Attack was long out-of-print.)
Anyways both albums are considerably different from each other. Out Of The Tunnel pretty much follows the same formula as Hard Attack -- Beefheartian heavy metal with lyrics mocking pop-culture and suburban passivity. "Don't blame this one on me/put the blame put the blame on Mame/you can blame it on the bossa nova/but don't blame this one on me." Sometimes this gets a bit storybook childish, as on "I Walk Among Them" and "Someday You'll Be King", but with the sneery cynicism intact throughout. And the latter song has such incendiary and nasty guitar.
Crowd Control is the darker album, from a much darker year (1981). Lyrically it reminds me of early Wall Of Voodoo, with alot of the melancholy and wistfullness that they entailed. Opener being "Face Of The Earth" with guitars suggesting even more impending doom than any Black Sabbath song you can remember (if not quite as heavy.) "Just another microbe/just another monkey/just another man taking a walk on the face of the earth." An one part of the song creepily recalls some kind of personal childhood memory: "My father and I went to the zoo in Puerto Rico/they had monkeys on stage with little bicycles and typewriters/then it started to rain/we had to get on stage to get out of the rain/we stood up there with the monkeys."
"More Than Good" is downright nihilistic/misanthropic: "You can go astray/you can do it your way/you can grant their wishes/or you can be so vicious/there's more to life than being good." This track is the most trad-rock they ever got, sounding like it could be a Sha Na Na song with an ersatz-blues coda. "City Of Fools" has the most mournful chord progression going with the theme of an underground band struggling to make ends meet. This was 1981 remember...
But Crowd Control actually has two love songs ("Obsessive Devotion" and "Promise Of Love") that runs against the previous album's "Gary And Priscilla" which made a total mockery of romance in general. "Promise Of Love" is amazing to hear just for the complex jazzy structure -- sparse, barren and spacey with some sharp distorto lead guitar interjecting. Perhaps the most powerful moment on this whole collection.