SUBTERFÜGE: A Beautiful Chaos 1981-2004: CD

The recording/production quality of Mystic Records is rightfully infamous. It was straight fucking wretched, so bad that audience tapes of a Halloween show Ill Repute played at the studio sound better and more coherent than the actual recording Mystic itself released. Like so many other unfortunate bands, Las Vegas’ Subterfüge’s sole album suffered mightily from the Mystic Touch—cardboard drums and pie-tin cymbals, guitars straight outta the nearest toilet bowl, and muted bass all awash in reverb—rendering otherwise solid songs from a great band sapped of any power and teetering on the verge of unlistenable. All that notwithstanding, however, I personally fuggin’ loved this band, suffered through the “Mystake” sound, and let their tunes work their magic. The tracks from that album are included on this collection and they’re still as exasperating as ever. Thankfully, though, they’re paired with assorted demo tracks and a live set from the band’s final performance at Fenders in Long Beach. These do a much better job—despite their own limitations—of documenting a creative and often slyly funny band with some damned good songs that stood out during an era when so many others were trying to sound like every other band playing a million miles an hour. Also included is an SLF cover of more recent vintage. There are rumblings of a reunion show making the rounds, so one can’t help but hope they’ll also spend a little time putting some work into some new recordings. –Jimmy Alvarado (Squidhat)