TERMINAL – Pistol Whip (Smog Veil Records)
Chicago-based, Cleveland-obsessed label Smog Veil has become a sort of American equivalent to Orstralia’s Aztec Music or the U.K.’s Easy Action, the top dogs when it comes to sumptuously packaged, painstakingly tweaked releases of archival materials from the heyday. With each new release, they reveal another facet of a musical Midwest that, while unheralded, was every bit as vibrant and variegated as the more population-dense terminal cities on either coast (which will culminate when their long-anticipated Peter Laughner box finally drops, if Ceiling Cat is merciful, in November 2010).
Pistol Whip were a band from Erie, PA (that’s pronounced pee-ayyy), that underwent a mysterious transformation between their Uber-obscure 7-inch from ’77 and the previously unreleased demos they cut in Chicago the following year. On the former, they’re a rather undistinguished mid-‘70s rock band a la Styx…or Kiss (particularly on “The Untouchables” – inspirational verse: “Is every woman really a whore?”). On the latter, they’re the Dictators. Seriously – if gravel-voiced wiseass Willie Cotter wasn’t intentionally aping Handsome Dick, then he must surely have been channeling him. And Rick DeBello gave you more flash (if somewhat less finesse) than Ross the Boss. They even made the throwback organ work for them. (Deep Purple as punk?)
The lyrical ideas come one per song: “Jooky MaGoo,” “Cock Sure,” “Six More Inches,” “Big Boy” – you get the drift. It’s worth remembering that in the place and time these guys were active, the choices available to the discriminating punter consisted of cover bands and skinny-tie “new wave.” They reunited in 1988 and again this year, and performances from all eras are documented on the accompanying DVD. It was a mistake to include narration from the DVD on the CD, as it sounds corny and detracts from the music’s impact, but the music itself is fine on its own terms -- a worthy addition to the annals of ‘70s punkdom. - Ken Shimamoto
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