Friday, June 15, 2012

The Mentally Ill on Last Laugh Records

Oh wow, how can you not appreciate this xerox sleeve of John Wayne Gacy shaking hands with Rosalyn Carter, but then again if you know anything about The Mentally Ill it's that they tried their hardest to be as offensive as possible taking a quick look at these song titles.
Like any great punk myth, there's various stories about how these guys were rich, from the suburbs and just trying to piss people off, they had offices in some kind of nice gated community, they worked at a record store and snuck copies into peoples purchases. The only thing that matters to me is that insane guitar sound and level of pissing people off are both pretty incredible, and only looking back you get an idea of where things were at, or how some things never change.

"Gacy's Place" is the first example, setting the bar high for nothing like damaged punk to take on one of the sickest bastards of all time, beyond just trying to test boundaries like this in 1979, it pretty much doesn't get an easier 30 years later. This guitar is a dirty crunchy mess, filtered through what has to be such a connection of soldered together pedals, or some kind of worn out soviet era broken vacuum tube, it's sputtering, on the edge of gated meltdown. Like an early MXR Blue box... a choppy little distorted ditty, complete with a mess of a solo. Completely unplayable with the snotty vocals delivered as fast as possible to not get thrown off the stage or shut down immediately. Here they've got that dirty echo'd basement quality that really adds extra creep to "fucking your little kids!" over and over. You bet I had to run over to the turntable so my neighbors don't get the wrong idea. The whole thing comes crashng down predicably into a mess at the end. This is the kind of thing that just throws off everything you think you know about the chronology of punk, there's Death over there in Detroit, and you've got these guys up in Chicago, blowing minds. The summer I spent listening to License to Ill at night under the covers as quiet as possible is what this must have felt like.

B-Sides' "Padded Cell" has an impossibly blown out bass, (or is that the guitar again?) complete crunch to the point of technical problems, but the vocal has that demented echo and whoever is on vocals is also emulating this insane mindset, repeating "padded cell.. padded cell", this starts to get really creepy, maybe it's the distance of time and this raw recording, or that he's just really selling this. Getting way too far into the character. It's a good thing guys like this don't really think about it, they probably think this was tame.
"Tumor Boy" at this point is their signature imposibly distorted guitar, gated beyond oblivion and then pushed into overdrive, sounding pretty insanely contemporary....wait it switched out to an acoustic sond for a second? The solo melody sound at the end of this might as well be synth. Losing his mind again, with a lot in common with Slug Guts, but more juvenile... which is exactly in line with the content, scare everyone and piss them off immediately, break something and disappear. A brief moment of pure early punk.
The days of real fear and avant garde in NYC. Has it been so tamed by now this stuff isn't even possible anymore?

On Last Laugh Records.

Of all the hotly sought-after original Killed-By-Death punk singles, few to none are as notorious - or mysterious - as the "Gacy's Place" EP by The Mentally Ill. The sleeve, the topics, the so-horrible-it's-amazing production values, that voice. Many in the know crown it the sickest punk record ever made.

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