Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Reactors reissue on Last Laugh Records

Ok class, I know none of you wants to be here this summer, but you must have screwed up somewhere during the year, so let's just get through this....really it's not so bad if you just pay attention. Here at Last Laugh University, we aren't going to grade you, we just sincerely want you to learn something about rock and roll. Remember Rock and Roll High School? When Riff would start playing Ramones and everyone would start dancing around like manaics, and the entire place wanted tickets to see Dee Dee and Joey? It's a little like that minus the jerkoff principal who wants to shut everything down. No, this is more like that Yo La Tengo's Sugarcube video with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, you better sit up and pay attention.
Today we're going to talk about the second single in the Last Laugh curriculum from a band out of NYC, The Reactors. Formed at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut in 1978, they played a few shows locally and quickly graduated to the NYC live punk scene. After only two years, the band called it quits, with Shepherd Ginzburg commenting on a youtube video he uploaded:

This was recorded at our final show (except for a 1995 reunion). I really thought Punk Rock had run its course and was done. The whole concept was anti-corporate, so as it grew bigger it was self defeating. Guess I was wrong.

This single was originally pressed in a run of 100, and given away to club bookers and never actually for sale, but Last Laugh has 30 years later given it a proper reissue.

If you'll turn your vinyl over to the A-Side track, "The Seduction Center", you'll hear it's built around the 4 chord foundation of punk typical from this time period with Shepherd delivering his vocal in a nervous art rock Mark Mothersbaugh style, with an almost vibrato at points, even approaching a sort of out of control enthusastic blues rock style. The guitar tones are distorted, recorded with a heavy lean on the treble, jangly range. Notice how they pause for a moment at the end of the chorus for a uptempo bassline refrain to bring things back around to another verse. It's alos important to note the use of speed here, never dwelling on a particular lyric sentiment or melody.
The striking thing towards the beginning of the track is the use of what might be an early example of sampling: at a much louder level than the overall flat punk sound is an explosion sound overdubbed by a band member and immediately after at the end of the next verse a synth car horn honking sound, a curious use of these weird out of character sounds were possibly an attempt at making the single stand out in that crowded field at the time.
Towards the end the band even harmonizes for a moment as the track begins to die out, probably a slight jab at the close harmony sounds of the previous decades.

B-Side's, "I Want Sex", is a subtle track about why the band is involved in making music in the first place...just kidding...everyone still awake? Put the needle on the B-side which opens with an air raid siren. Here the band is creating a sense of urgency, and when the opening chanting vocal starts, "I want sex, I want sex, I want sex, I want SEX!" it's clear that the fist pumping riot is about to begin. It's not enough to sing the vocal a single time, the repetition mirrors the narrators attitude about this primal act, note the emphasis on the last "SEX", it follows the 4 measure pattern of deliberately primitive punk and provides a marker for the verse to begin. Here, you might notice a slight storytelling, unmelodic verse which although one can't draw a direct line, would undoubtedly influence indirectly Eddie Argos' vocal style in contemporary singles of today.

For homework, watch this video and pick it up from Last Laugh Records. It will be on your final exam.

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