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MX-80 Sound - Big Hits & Hard Attack (1976-1977)





MX-80 Sound's first full album found the band balanced in some sort of weird zone where punk, art metal, and a drawling sort of humor Stephen Malkmus would chase down in later years could all happily coexist. That the band was a contemporary (in terms of time, if not exact location) of Devo and Pere Ubu makes a perfect sort of sense -- the quartet's songs were less immediately anthemic, but something in the Ohio water seems to have seeped over to Indiana as well. Lines like "There's an electrical alliance when you turn on that appliance" could be pure spud-boy attitude, while the nervous frazzle of the music and the semi-sci-fi identity the band used for their appearances and photos make for pure herky-jerky fun. If anything, Hard Attack may just well be the secret counterpart to the Fall at the time, and for good reason (even the two-drummer team of Armour and Mahoney arguably beat Mark E. Smith and company to the punch). Stim is a wonderfully offbeat singer, ranting without ever raving, as prone to talk over, around, and beside the beat as to sing anything straightforward, while his occasional turns on horn seem like the type of thing he would do for the hell of it. The rhythm section's affinity for prog rock's tempo switching and jazzy breakdowns never become an end in and of itself; the goal instead is to keep both the noise and the groove on, and they do it with raunchy power. Lead guitarist Anderson makes some righteously giddy feedback and circus/carnival riffs (Stim aiding him at points, other times finding its own path), and the end result is a sharp balance between insanity and just enough control. Outrageously funny/bad lyrical joke: "A horse that lives for a year is a yearling, but a horse that lives for a week, is it a weakling?" (Ned Raggett)

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