It takes a few seconds to get your bearings as album opener “Face of the Earth” hits you across the head with a crash cymbal and a rapid fire kick/snare pattern. MX-80 Sound wastes no time getting you acclimated to their world, a musical landscape filled with dissonant chords and maniacal rhythms. It’s halfway through the second track, “Crowd Control,” that I think, “My God, this came out in 1981, what were they thinking”?!? In a world full of Adam Ant and Thompson Twins there could be no room for the bastard child of Television and Don Van Vliet.
That’s really what makes a band like this so special; it’s their timelessness. You can put a track like “Night Rider” next to something from At the Drive In and it won’t sound out of place. Much like later bands Shellac and Slint, MX-80 Sound stayed true to playing whatever type of music they wanted, with little regard for structure or form. That isn’t to say there aren’t a few traditional songs on here though; “Obsessive Devotion” is a fairly straight on New Wave song, and album closer “Promise of Love” is even a ballad. Still, it’s the overtly experimental songs that will keep your undivided attention on every subsequent listen.
Out of the Tunnel
In contrast to 1981’s Crowd Control, 1980’s Out of the Tunnel has a lot more edge and a lot less refinement. Out of the Tunnel turns the formula of distorted guitars and frenetic drums on its head by adding in disjointed saxophone and sawtooth bass lines, falling somewhere between punk rock and the apocalypse. “Fender Bender” will show you everything you need to know; to my ears, it’s the glorious sounds of a ska or punk band trying to cover early ’70s King Crimson, miraculously never falling apart. While the entire album is nothing short of amazing, make sure to give it at least a couple listens for full effect; songs like this are hard to absorb in one shot.
Ship to Shore never skimp on packaging and this is no exception. Both albums have extensive liner notes detailing the recording and mixing process, playfully composed inside of mock comic book panels. You can tell the band had a great time making the albums, and STSPC’s art direction fits the mood perfectly. Each record is on transparent color vinyl, and Crowd Control comes with a download card. The sound quality was excellent; little to no surface noise and as much detail as the songs would allow.
Both albums are available to buy at Ship to Shore Phono Co’s website.