Vampire Lezbos ‘Vampire Lezbos’ (Flat Field Records)
CD/DL out now
For me, one of the coolest aspects of listening to recorded music for is how it can transport you back in time. For this, the re-release of Vampire Lezbos eponymous first album, set the wayback machine for the year 1988. The place, as unlikely as it sounds, Spokane, Washington. While punk was getting ready to give birth to grunge in Seattle, some 300 miles to the east a much smaller yet equally impassioned scene existed. Formed in 1984 in the conservative and socially limiting city that was, (and is), Spokane, VL released several limited DIY cassettes before the band settled on a lineup and hastily recorded this, their first full-length album.
Recorded in 1987 at The Production Group, the album was produced by Bill Byrne because the band “wanted the best recording we could get, the most knowledgeable guy behind the board and of course, the cheapest session we could find.” They recorded live, with just a few vocal overdubs over two or three sessions. And like some runny nosed relay runner hopped up on speed, they managed to swipe the baton from the likes of The Clash and The Buzzcocks, and beat them over the head with it. So turn off The Wonder Years, turn up the stereo, and get ready to piss off the neighbors. The first track Plasma, opens with a guitar lick that can best be described as Dick Dale surfing on acid, and gives us a 2 minute day in the life of a guy on the streets. Next up is Cop Magnet, which is brutally fast, and I’m pretty sure was written from firsthand experience. The song Monkey, opens with a deceptively slow riff that by the time the band kicks in, it’s like somebody just floored a jet fueled dragster. One thing that sets VL apart from a lot of other bands is that they weren’t afraid to inject a little socio/political commentary into the mix. Stop Killing The Seals is their 100 mph ode to help bring attention to the cause. If you need to stop and catch your breath, fuck you. With a riff that reminds me just a bit of Breed by Nirvana, but even faster, So What is basically the Lezbos take on listening to authority, and I don’t think they’re going to. It’s interesting to note that VL opened up for Nirvana in March of 1988, and had this album out almost a year before Nirvana’s first album Bleach was even released.
Reds Use Poison Gas sort of reminds me of a twisted Beastie Boys thing, with its barked backups, but with guitars so thick you can taste ’em. If you’re prone to epileptic seizures, you may want to skip the next track, Ogon Warrior. With starts and stops, and stops and starts, it feels a bit like you’re on some roller coaster to hell, and the carney running it likes to throw on the brakes every once in a while just to watch you freak. Next up is It Hurts, which sort of reminds me a little bit of The Stooges, and as the title suggests, is basically a diatribe against everything, including life. You may want to make sure your mother is out of the room for that one. Phone Solicitor opens with sort of an off kilter Gold Finger type riff as the quiet part of this “soft-loud-soft” rip on this particular social ill. Opening with a deceptively mainstream sounding lick, which is brought to a screeching halt as the singer exclaims the title, What The Fuck takes that mainstream lick and shoves it where it belongs, in the dumpster. Opening as kind of a country shuffle, once the band kicks in, Queen Spuma turns into the kind of thrashy freight train song that really insists that climbing up the P.A. stack, and diving headfirst into the crowd might be a good idea. On Worm, the band sounds like they’re going to implode/explode at any minute, so by the time we get to the final track Macho Fag, with its pierced tongue in cheek lounge lizard opening riff, we’re ready for a final pummeling, and the band doesn’t disappoint.
That’s the original album as it was first released, but included on the new CD release are alternate takes of 7 of the original songs, plus 3 others that made up a 1986 cassette release. Vampire Lezbos are surprisingly well represented on You Tube, and show up in the 2011 film about the burgeoning punk scene in Spokane in the 1980’s, Spokanarchy. There has been some talk lately about some VL shows this year, so if you want to catch a bit of something that helped kick in the door for grunge, I suggest you try and check ’em out.
You may however, want to wear a cup.