Well, what are the chances. Out of the huge range of random-number-generator-driven possibilities that were available for this post, it’s another Earth album. I’ve already written about Earth 2 on here in the past. I bought this at the same time as that. This is their first album, featuring some dude named Kurt Kobain (sic) on extra-curricular duty – playing guitar? It doesn’t say.
Is this something of a theme album, perhaps? The cover picture shows a double-pupilled eyeball, and the text on front and back, bang on about eye surgery-related stuff, alongside a load of ‘look how weird and out there we are’ snippets of text such as ‘An edge to lay bare entrails’ / ‘Cut-out tongue and sex’ / ‘Each of the attributes is called a flame’ / etc etc. It’s like all of the most self-consciously woah-maan-eccentric post-rock song titles have been collected together and placed on the back cover of the record.
And the record? It includes, of particular interest, ‘Ouroboros is Broken’, the simply marvellous proto-stoner-repeato-doom-sludge template for so much of the music that’s exciting hip young indie gunslingers these days. Even eighteen years after release (!!) this still sounds utterly cool, and utterly serious. Sling some robes on them and call them drunken soothsayers.
Fact for you: extracapsular extraction = the removal of a cataract. Doesn’t sound as cool though, does it? An album named ‘Cataract Removal’ sounds too much like a public health information recording, maybe.
Such a great cover on this record. The only thing that narks me about it is that the text on the spine runs up the other way than what I’m used to… and obviously I’m just a xenophobe in this respect, as this is a German release (Glitterhouse seems/seemed to be the German licence for many Sub Pop releases?) and that’s the way they do things over there. But still. Tchuh! Perhaps I should cut off the spine and sellotape it on the other way up. Anything to maintain unity in the spine-facing side to my record collection.
I bought this on eBay, I think, a couple of years back. Many many years before this though, I remember regularly visiting a shop in Birmingham called Second City Sounds, and seeing it there every time. I was constantly enthralled by the cover, but not hip enough (or indeed rich enough) back then to decide to buy it. I think that Second City Sounds has gone, now. It used to be great. I was always impressed as they had SARAH001 on the wall, along with some super-rare original singles by The Creation that I always lusted after. It was always worth walking down there despite it being on a seedy road stuffed with adult shops and long-mac-wearers – and some kind of Food & Drink College, as far as I remember.
Once I was asked in a pub – the White Lion in Wellington, Telford, I think – whether I was Mark Arm from Mudhoney. “No”, I said. Because I look nothing like him. I was always confused by that, but secretly pleased that I was 0.01% a famous rock star in some kind of way.
I’m a johnny-come-lately to this band, really. I’d love to say that yeah, I bought this on the day it came out in ’92 after following Earth’s early progress through hip underground clubs and fanzines – but no, that just wouldn’t be true. I got into Sunn o))) a few years back, instead, and pretty quickly heard about how they started life as an Earth tribute act before going off down their own unique, doomy, droney, brilliant route. I first heard Earth supporting Sunn o))) on the Thekla in Bristol, some time ago. Now that was a gig – the headline set being possibly the loudest one I’ve ever experienced, just unutterably intense, relentless and terrifying. I’m ashamed to say that I had to leave before they were done, fearing my poor head would cave in.
Anyway, Earth supported, and on that night sounded like a drone-country act. Interesting, yes, but not the revolutionary masters of sound that I’d expect Sunn o))) to have based their early career on. But now I have hindsight, I realise that I was listening to late-period Earth, and that their early releases, like this album, are much more what I was hoping for. Massive, droning arcs of guitar hum and feedback, this album sounds magically invoked rather than being the result of humans playing guitars in a recording studio. I don’t know if they were the first band to take traditional heavy metal/hard rock music and stretch it waaaaaaaaaay out in order to reveal its inner workings – I’m sure there are endless aficionados who will name acts of this ilk that came before – but within my own self-taught chronology of recording history this is pretty exciting, special, original stuff.
A side note: On the way to that Thekla gig I walked past Earth’s Dylan Carlson in the street, and felt a shiver of excitement – not because it was the guy from Earth, but because it was the heroin guy out of that Kurt & Courtney film. Isn’t that tragic?