Rocket From The Tombs - Black Record

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2015-11-13

Before there was Pere Ubu and The Dead Boys, there was Ohio’s Rocket from the Tombs. It crawled from Cleveland and it was a glorious mess that lasted about a year. Their one 'album' is the greatest album never released. For all its raw passion, it’s essentially a lo-fi collection of demos cut in 1974. Demos that predated Punk, spawned by progenitors who were soon to leave a distinctive mark on New York's CBGB’s scene.

Rocket was the real deal. The combined talents of Peter Laughner, Dave Thomas, and Cheetah Chrone (aka Gene O’Connor) hinted at what could have been. After their split, Thomas formed Pere Ubu and Chrome, The Dead Boys. Leaving the late, great Laughner to shoot like a rocket into the tomb.

“Reunions” are dubious prospects.  Most are doomed to disappoint. And this is not the first Rocket From The Tombs reunion. In 2003, the surviving members reformed with the formidable Richard Lloyd (Television) on board. The end result was the commendable Rocket Redux. While Cheetah has left the fold, leaving Dave Thomas as sole original member, happy to report this “reunion” is a blast. True, its not as ground breaking as the album that never was. Nor is that the ambition here. The ambition is to rattle the cans and make some racket. The atmosphere is devil may care, spontaneous and above all else fun. That said, Waiting for the Snow is a wonderfully gloomy opener. Going to show Thomas has never lost his acerbic edge. Welcome to the New Dark Ages can’t help but bring Captain Beefheart to mind. Elsewhere, Sonic Reducer and Strychnine seem obligatory inclusions and one wonders if they ran out of material, pulling these old chestnuts out. I Keep A File On You and Nugefinger keep things chugging along, Thomas growling with menace and humor. Another album stand out is the ominous Spooky. Without a doubt the Black Record’s most hair raising track. Creepy and oddly, touching.  Coopy asks the all-important existential question, “What’s in your refrigerator?” While Hawk Full of Soul and Read It & Weep manage to be rather middling fare, the Black Record ends on a charming but bizarre note with Parking Lot At The Rainbow’s End, where Thomas vows, “I’ll be the one changing the tires for you”. Keeping it short and sweet, just like this album. Fans of the original 1974 line up should have nothing to complain about here.

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