Naked Raygun is one of those bands that anyone who claims to have even a fleeting appreciation for music, let alone punk, should be well versed with. Their recorded output is consistently good and, on a few occasions, they managed to pen some truly breathtaking songs. Don’t believe me? Give a listen to “Treason” and tell me you don’t find yourself reaching to crank the volume to maximum two seconds into its Morse code/alarm intro. Unfortunately for you, that song ain’t among those here, but take heart, ’cause there are still quite a few gems to be found here. Basement Screams, the band’s debut, is the more experimental of the two, which makes sense, considering two of the members also did time in Big Black. Tempering the artiness, however, are heavy dollops of the U.K. punk and the U.S. hardcore that also served well their fellow Chicagoans The Effigies, resulting in a marriage of throbbing bass lines and static-pattern guitars to catchy pop hooks, and “whoa-oh” singalong bits. In addition to the six songs on the original EP, you get here five additional demo tracks from 1982-83, some of which differ from those on the 1999 CD reissue. By the time they got to recording Throb Throb, the band’s primary songwriter, SantiagoDurango, had left the band to devote his time to Big Black, leaving the rest of the members to come up with the tunes, which they did with amazing results. Starting of with the straightforward hardcore of “Rat Patrol,” they strip-mine and expand on all the ideas they’d touched upon on Basement Screams, delving into chanty punk with odd lyrics (“Metastasis,” which they also contributed to the second Flipside Vinyl Fanzine compilation); jazz-steeped tunes with odder lyrics (“Got all hepped up on too much speed/and danced ’til my prostate fell out....”); abrasive sludge (“Roller Queen,” “No Sex”); social commentary (“I Don’t Know,” “Only in America,” the latter featuring saxophone); and a bit more hardcore (“Stupid”). Although it’s infinitely cool to have the band’s first two records out on actual vinyl again, the real treat is that are quite a few albums that followed these, each one rife with great tunes, making for a legacy they will hopefully expand upon now that they’re supposedly back together. If you’re new to Naked Raygun, this is as good a place as any to start and if you’re an old fan, this’ll remind you why you loved ’em in the first place. Either way, these two discs are must-haves, no matter how you slice it.
–jimmy (Haunted Town)