P A P E R  T H I N  W A L L S

You've got your favorite bands from some distant past that nobody else cares about, and so do I.  One of mine put out their debut album on A&M in 1979, the same year Joe Jackson, the Police, and sort of Squeeze, put out albums on the same label.

But the band I'm talking about, who are called The Reds®, seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.  There is a 1979 A&M compilation release called Propaganda featuring tracks by The Reds, Joe Jackson, the Police, Squeeze, the Granati Bros, Bobby Henry, Shrink and David Kubinec so, once upon a time they were all on the same plane.  Their self-titled debut album got reviews in Rolling Stone (where future MTV star Kurt Loder, of all people, compared them to Pere Ubu), and Robert Christgau gave it a B+ in the Village Voice.  The Reds got their hard-rocking post-punk art-metal doom-groove on vinyl before Joy Division did, before Killing Joke did, before the Birthday Party did.  Clearly they were primed for stardom. But it never came.

In 1979, for some bizarre marketing rationale, A&M let The Reds put out a really nifty green-vinyl 10" EP, which I used to own, but dumbly got rid of, which included a cover of the Doors, "Break On Through."  Their second and third albums, Fatal Slide and Stronger Silence (from '80 and '82), and '84 five-song EP called Shake Appeal on Sire Records.  Later I definitely picked up a cassette of 1986's Band Of The Hand soundtrack, to which The Reds contributed five songs, alongside Bob Dylan's and Andy Summer's one each.  There were other soundtrack contributions too.  But for the most part, pffft.  Nobody ever said a damn word about them.

Until December of last year, when I stumbled upon their CD Baby page, I had no idea The Reds had released Cry Tomorrow (produced by Mike Thorne) in 1992.  They have a MySpace page which lists such intriguing influences as Roxy Music, Jon Lord, Traffic, Slim Harpo, Mtume, R.L. Burnside, Jah Wobble, Parliament, King Tubby, the Yardbirds, Massive Attack, for starters.

Anyway, as of last September (2007), there's also a new CD, Fugitives From The Laughing House.  Key tracks on the new one include "Big Town" (a tough and compact train-rhythm churner), "Little Cisco" (a blurry and sinewy thing with early David Johansen in its vocal inflections), and especially "Gunn's Suicide," this dense, rolling snowball of scritch, scratch, echo and murk that's probably as deep and hefty a six-minute dub-metal as you'll hear this year.  Metalgaze droners of the Isis/Neurosis/Pelican ilk would sell their souls for a sound like this.  It's exorable, and it fills the whole room.

• Chuck Eddy • Paper Thin Walls