October 3, 2002

Test Spin: Rocket from the Tombs

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Though they were only together for eight months and never released an album during this time, Rocket From the Tombs could be one of the most influential punk bands of all time. The band’s split yielded both Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys, each band recording songs that had originally been written for Rocket.

This new collection finally makes available the RFTT legacy, in the form of demos, rehearsals, and live recordings that reveal an overlooked, but amazing group. Had these songs been released in 1975, when they were written, this band would today certainly be as well-known and seminal as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. But historical importance aside, this collection is a great listening experience, nearly as cohesive and hard-hitting as a full album could have been.

“Ain’t It Fun” and “So Cold” are possibly the best tracks of the batch, a pair of introspective, mid-tempo rockers that meld the sleazy low-end of the Stooges with bursts of furious riffing. The dark, complex “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” (later recorded as a single by Pere Ubu) winds its way through a tension-fraught atmosphere of rising and falling guitars. “Never Gonna Kill Myself Again” is a straight-ahead punk number that recalls White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground, and there’s also a raucous cover of the Velvets’ own “Foggy Notion.”

Elsewhere, the band channels Iggy Pop on raging covers of the Stooges’ “Raw Power” and “Search & Destroy.” There’s also the surprisingly melodic “Amphetamine” which, if not for its rough recording fidelity, wouldn’t seem out of place on modern alternative radio. This collection provides an unprecedented glimpse of what just might be, as the retro sci-fi packaging claims, “one of the greatest albums NEVER recorded.”

Archived article by Ed Howard