Sunday, 16 August 2009

Space City USA - Chromed

Space City USA were a band from London*, Ontario who - about 13 years ago now - somehow managed to get Toronto's Raw Energy Records (who normally put out punk rock and ska type stuff) to release this bizarre combination of rock, stoned samples, soundscapes and straight-up power electronics noise.

The CD's cover art includes the phrase "The Future of Rock 'n' Roll" - and, between the lo-fi, often trebly mix (perfect for iPods), the somewhat ironic sensibility (inner sleeve has pictures of vintage electronics and big sunglasses), and the exuberant use of noise and collage, one could make the argument that "Chromed" might well have struck a chord if released today (the song "Suzuki Kid" is not unlike Wolf Eyes, for example). Another band 'ahead of their time'.

At that time, I was playing in The Starkweather Fix and was looking for different-sounding bands to play gigs with - when I heard "Chromed", I was initially confused by how plain weird it was, and then intrigued. Gradually I came to love it, it really is its own little world. I approached Raw Energy about playing a show with Space City USA, and recall how thrilled they seemed that someone was taking an interest; indeed, I was left with the distinct impression that they had no clue whatsoever what to do with the band.

In August of 1997, we played together at the El Mocambo downstairs, along with Bunny Hoover and Mangloid. Space City USA were pretty strange live too, as it turned out - for the song "Posathon"(a pastiche of noise bursts as well as Joni Mitchell's famous rebuke of the Isle of Wight Festival audience that they were "acting like tourists") - the lead singer/guitar player not only played a recording of Mitchell's dialogue, but proceeded to lip-sync it as well!

They played a bunch of songs off their record and covered Yoko Ono's classic "Don't Worry, Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking For Her Hand In The Snow)" in their own inimitable style. I also recall they gave out faux hockey cards with musical figures instead of hockey players; unfortunately, I can't find mine right now. I think it was Eddie Kramer.

"Chromed" has been available online from Western's college radio station CHRW 94.7 for a long time, but sadly only at 128kbps. There's precious little, internet-wise, on the subject of Space City USA and what became of them. It appears that the aforementioned singer guy went on to produce "maximum drum & bass" under the name Suzuki Kid, releasing at least two acclaimed records under that name ("Doom Doom Doom" and "AC/DC CD").

"Chromed" has two 'bonus tracks', and in true 1990s fashion, these appear after a minute of silence at the end of the album proper: one is an aggressively crappy cover of Judas Priest's "Livin' After Midnight", and the other is a noise barrage called "The Treatment". I should add that Track 9 ("New Transmission") has a warning in the liner notes that, "this song may damage your speakers if played too loud. Try it with a few cups JO, and relax". Perhaps the greatest warning of its kind ever?

Space City USA - Chromed (320kbps)

*hometown of the Nihilist Spasm Band of course. Is this whence comes the noise?

***Sept.12/09 - I had a very nice email from Brother Joe (the main man behind Space City USA and Suzuki Kid), who now lives in Vancouver and runs an extremely tasty hard-psych-rocking blog called Don't Feed The Ears Let Them Eat. He's also DJing a Psych Night Wednesday nights at 10pm (BC time) at the Anza Club, with a live internet stream to boot! More info here.***

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