The Louisville post-punk quartet – whose only LP, 1983’s Poke It With A Stick, is getting the reissue treatment at the end of this work-week care of Drag City – was key in its all-too-short tenure to the region’s indispensable wave of punk and post-rock in the 80s and 90s, definitely as influential on the scene as Maurice, which also has been resurrected on YouTube in these Slint AD days. The Drag City LP, in fact, is getting the re-press thanks to post-rock forefather David Grubbs, the Louisvillian-cum-Brooklynite, Squirrel Bait alum, and Drag City artist who jokes about his hometown being littered with spray-paint announcing, “Eat Your Food or eat shit!”
But is the record, a murky, rhythmic quagmire prepped by a bunch of self-taught miscreants, any good? Oh yeah.
The dark comic fantasies and sense of disillusionment summoned on Poke It With A Stick call to mind a rough-around-the-edges brand of post-punk where Link Wray flirts with Joy Division. The repetitious grooves of bass and drums lull you into false slumber as the edgy guitar scrapes at your ears. When these guys break down their more carefully built constructions – though seeing that term in print somehow seems too sanitized – they wax psychedelic (break down in “Corners”) or thrash like true American punks (“Cowtown”). The classic “Don’t Be,” a single if there’s any on here, combines throttling bass and crunchy guitar with vicious drum patterns and spit-take vocals from singer Douglas Maxson (formerly of Dickbrains). On the closing “Order,” apparently cut live, feedback is king. “Baby Jesus” is Big Boys gold.
The whole thing is a very punk affair, even if these guys aren’t cranking up the dial to 11 on every track. Only on “Order,” though, does the band sound unhinged. For the rest of the eight tracks here, listeners are treated to a kind of mutant Birthday Party, with Cave replaced by an angry teenager fueled, in the words of the press, by cheap beer and baked beans. Your Food goes for the throat, even if it’s not always barking. After 30-ish years of vinyl obscurity, we all should be welcoming them back into the fold.