Sometimes you have to redefine your idea of a “prime” era of good music in order to find music you love. For the longest time I was extremely wary of records from the late 80s and early 90s. There was so much CRAP issued around that time, as hair metal extended its Aqua Net-doused tentacles and electronic music traded in its experimentalism for digitalized rhythms and its vocals for the sound of a thousand ravers sucking on pacifiers in an ecstacy-induced fury.
But I have been occasionally finding records from this forsaken era. It was, after all, a great time for shoegaze. And the French coldwave/touching pop bands of the time were quite good.. The Juju mini LP from 1989 is a masterpiece, and both records by Intelligence Unit from 1989 and 1991 are excellent and unique. Well, Chicago band (and Intelligence Unit labelmates) Crashblack Big Orange can certainly be added to the category of great post-punk from this time. In fact, I'd say they were one of the best dark post-punk bands of not just their era, but ANY era. Here's a sample:
Crashblack Big Orange (don’t worry, their name literally does not mean anything) was a husband and wife duo that rose from the ashes of a couple other bands, The Hail Marys and Unknown Pleasures. I found an interview in which they cited Killing Joke and Xmal Deutschland as their biggest influences and, well, it shows (and that alone should get you to download this post haste). I’d also add Skeletal Family to that list; Crashblack’s guitars are often quite remisncent of them. Both members share drum program duties, and both sing as well. He sounds a bit like an early UK goth-punk singer (think Twisted Nerve or UK Decay) and she sounds a bit Siouxsie-ish. The combination of male and female vocals (both of whom are actually good) is one of the things that sets this band apart from so many others. And the extended guitar intros, outros, bridges, and solos could sound a bit jammy if they didn’t completely kick ass, weren’t chock-full of distortion, or did not have that perfect darkwave tone to them. Even the basslines are memorable (and is it just me, or does the bassline of the lead track “Trust” sound like the bass from Secession’s classic “Betrayal”?) Here's another song of theirs:
The band released at least 3 demo tapes before this LP. Most of those songs were released on this LP, although I would love to hear them if they’re demo versions. And at least one Iain Burgess –produced tape has some exclusive songs on it. The band later shortened their name to Crashblack, although I have not heard anything from that incarnation. If anyone out there has anything else from them – or demo tapes from Unknown Pleasures or The Hail Marys, I’d be interested in hearing them!
Crashblack Big Orange
Naked Man LP
1990, Cold Grey Matter Records