from the Critical List February 5, 1988
The Wild Seeds: Mud, Lies and Shame (Passport). Well, here's a smart little record, with plenty of g-u-t-s and ... uh ... pizzazz. And twang. Lots of twang. And ... pizzazz. They say that the adjectives are the first thing to go.
    Let me put it another way. There are bands (there are books, there are women) that grab you, that sink hooks into your brain, right into the old imagination, and just start joggling -- and there are those that don't. (And by "you," of course, I mean "me.") I spend less time than I probably should listening to music -- given that that's the thing I'm nominally paid (nominally) to do -- but I spend more time listening to more music than most, and most of the music I listen to (to which I listen, rather) I can hardly hear, it is so little distinguished from the rest of the most of the music to which I listen (to). For every original, there are 100 knock-offs that tend to resemble the original not nearly so much as they resemble each other, and run together in a blurry mass, and this is a phenomenon that cuts across genres, across generations, and across geraniums. It is a seemingly inevitable function not only of the music business, which so delights in doing any moderately promising style to death , but of bandom and fandom itself. Most everybody starts out wanting to be somebody else, be it John Lennon or Bruce Springsteen or Henry Rollins or Henry the Human Fly. I saw a band last night that sounded just like the Clash. They had a fair bit of energy, and I'm sure they were as sincere as ... as only a band that would want to sound exactly like the Clash (in this day and age!) could be. They were into it! They were living it out! But energy and sincerity are not uncommon commodities -- the lounges of Vegas are thick with it. Listening to a band that sounds exactly like the Clash but isn't the Clash is about as satisfying as kissing one girl and thinking about her sister; I mean, the thing to do is either to kiss the sister or to find a new girl who doesn't have one.
    Let me put it another way. The normal curve is a mathematical certainty -- this is proved conclusively by a machine I used to see down at the Museum of Science and Industry; I think it's still there. Only a small percentage of the inspired will ever themselves become inspiring. This is true both of bands overground and under, of local scenes and corporate catalogs. It is a scientific fact; it is not my fault. Most endeavor (most anything) falls into the hump of the curve, the big, fat, unremarkable middle between the little bit of the truly great and the equally little bit of the truly awful. And, from this end of the cornucopia, you can get so ditsy from the avalanche of stuff that's neither here nor there that you go something akin to snow-blind, and everything starts to sound the same, to whir into a kind of white noise, and you're really not at all sure whether what you're listening to is good or bad or if you can just no longer tell the difference; pretty much every rock crit I know has at some time been thus afflicted.
    So when something cuts through the buzz and, as I say, gets one's attention, gets played more than once not from duty but for pleasure, one feels unusually grateful, and the Wild Seeds LP (finally, we get back to that) certainly does have my gratitude. I don't suppose the band are doing anything particularly new, but when they do it, I don't think of anywhere it's been before them. They spring full-blown from the forehead of Austin, TX, which you can sort of hear in the country and blues they use, but you've got to really want to notice it. You've got to concentrate on the lineage if you're going to hear it at all. The band is refreshingly unselfconscious; there's no obvious "concept" here, no synthetic game plan upon which the music's hung. Call it "organic," like Coleridge said of his poetry, and though he was probably wasted at the time, he was nevertheless on to a good analogy -- art growing like a tree, in response to its own internal logic. Of course, I never did like Coleridge much, but that doesn't mean he was wrong about everything. He was involved in a literary movement that was, after all, roughly analogous to punk rock -- a determined sweeping away of old forms in the name of immediacy and authenticity. The Wild Seeds aren't punk, but they've surely profited by it, and they are nothing if not immediate and (as far as I can tell from here) authentic. They're also funny, fun, and no-frills ferocious. They have that guitars that sting, and drums that go snap, and songs (written mostly by Michael Hall, who sings them with appropriately varying degrees of technique and in varying degrees of extremis, in a fashion at once musical and conversational) that are exceedingly literate (but not literary) and well jointed, with real action and characters and emotional (and sometimes comic) impact. They're top of my pops this week and, who knows, maybe next, and at least as good as any other band you like right now. So go. Already.

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Copyright Robert Lloyd 1988 and 2006