Blatant Dissent 1985–1986 LP

As a teenager growing up in the Midwest during the first half of the 1990s, it’s perhaps unsurprising that I enjoyed the rock band TAR. TAR was a kind of emblematic middle-of-America noise rock band—they constructed their guitars from aluminum and they put out records on labels like Touch and Go and Amphetamine Reptile. But unlike, say, COWS or LAUGHING HYENAS, TAR was actually kind of a straight-ahead band, playing a sort of glum, deceptively hook-filled mid-tempo rock music. They even pulled a neat trick by having their final album, 1995’s Over and Out, be their finest work. But before TAR, most of the members learned their trade in the post-hardcore group BLATANT DISSENT. This collection LP pulls together two different recording sessions that resulted in a couple 7”s and the Hold the Fat album, and includes unreleased versions of some tracks. The first side was recorded with famed engineer Iain Burgess, who recorded many classic T&G sides, while the ’86 side is the early work of one Steve Albini, who also remastered this material from the original tapes. What’s interesting is that a lot of the 1985 material isn’t that different from the sonic trademarks of Washington, DC’s concurrent Revolution Summer scene. Even the lyrical concerns, often addressing their fellow punks, echo these sentiments. Hell, “Undermine” is practically a straightedge anthem. “Is There a Fear?” channels NAKED RAYGUN like they were born to it, while “My Hands Are Tied” opens with a PINK FLOYD-like acoustic bit before erupting into a tuneful swift kick that isn’t far removed from a late ’90s “melodic hardcore” band. “Eleven Days” shows how the band is able to give shape to the bleak, colorless days that dot the Midwestern calendar year. “How Can I Lose?” and “Status Quo” are highlights, all nervous energy and killer hooks. For obvious reasons, the 1986 sessions reveal a far tighter and more powerful band. By this point, BLATANT DISSENT had locked down its sound and it was only a matter of time until they would craft their aluminum guitars and solidify the sound of TAR.