Rocket From the Crypt, The Living Legends

ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT

Circa: Now! + 4

(Swami)

In a perfect world, Metallica would be a wood-shop reject's soundtrack to vandalism. In reality, they're the varsity football squad's soundtrack to "getting pumped" before district finals. I learned this hard truth one frigid Friday as the money-desperate co-statistician of the 1992 North Canton Hoover High Vikings. That Saturday, in my very first act of rock elitism, I traded Master of Puppets and . . . And Justice for All right the fuck in. The return for my investment: San Diego sextet Rocket From the Crypt, whom I'd read about in one of Spin's endless "next Seattle/ Nirvana" conjectures. The album was Circa: Now!, then on Interscope, and the inner sleeve simply read, "Crank it or spank it!" While I opted to comply with both demands, the former had a far more profound effect. It was, however, quite a leap conceding "Battery" for a band who so proudly flaunted their idiosyncratic liabilities: The players had goofy, in-joke nicknames like Apollo 9 and Speedo, they took the stage in matching bowling shirts, and they employed a horn section at a time when the Bosstones-led ska-punk uprising was inspiring suicides daily. Red flags aside, RFTC came off like the coolest type of gang—one whose exclusivity was a facade. Circa's brass knuckles were bunched, staccato power chords. "Don't Darlene," "Hairball Alley," and "Sturdy Wrists" jackhammered away for a minute or so, then blossomed into the most sonorous, all-together-now, good-times choruses I'd ever heard. Pompadoured ringleader John "Speedo" Reis—a man who's received fawning acclaim for every project he's touched (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes) except the "jokey" RFTC—was the primary lure. Deranged catchphrases like "Killin' ain't wrong—how come you make it look so good?" and "One of these days, you're gonna get beat" only validated the righteousness. Metallica's mutating army had shoulder pads? These dudes had switchblades, and when they were done

cutting you up, they'd throw a dance party. Suck on that, halfback. The latest in a series of Reis rereleases on his own Swami imprint, Circa: Now! + 4 ends with a cluster of previously unreleased, blink-and-they're-gone tracks that are similarly inviting, if remedial. "Crazy Talk" sounds like an outtake from playful, sloppy Cargo/Headhunter debut Paint as a Fragrance; otherwise the excavations are unmemorable. Not like that really matters. Circa: Now! + 4 is a nice equation, but I've got a better one: Some Disillusioned Suburban Stoner's CD Collection – (Load + Reload + St. Anger) = "Next Nirvana." ANDREW BONAZELLI

THE LIVING LEGENDS

Creative Differences

(Legendary)

Within the first 30 seconds of Creative Differences, Los Angeles' Living Legends have already addressed drunkenness, flatulence, and each other's nonprofessionalism. Three songs in, they've devoted one to drinking and another to masturbation (chorus: "Every time you jerk off/You shorten your lifespan/That's what somebody told me"). Album art finds the crew dressed up Brady Bunch–style, with inset shots of members fixing a bike, playing Scrabble, and building a balsa wood airplane (with, um, a rubber mallet). And you can picture Legends Murs, the Grouch, Eligh, Bicasso, ASOP, Sunspot, Scarub, and Luckylam.PSC rolling down the baking Los Angeles freeways as they construct the rhymes comprising Differences. The beats and pro­duction are still relentlessly DIY—composed and produced by the members themselves—and the liner notes list not only who gets credit for each cut but what program they used (Reason, ASR-10, MPC). There's also a bonus disc featuring at least one solo cut from each member, as well as some hard-to-find gems—a cut from 1995's Mystik Journeymen release, 4001 . . . the Stolen Legacy, and the Grouch's underground classic, "Simple Man." Differences documents one of underground hip-hop's most relevant collectives, from its auspicious beginnings to its well- adjusted present. GRANT BRISSEY

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