The Saints Invented Rocket From the Crypt

The SaintsI’ve pretty much stopped using Facebook 1If you’re reading this on Facebook, it’s because it was auto-posted there by WordPress. I don’t really miss it, except for times like right now when I discover a morsel that gets me excited but is of such focused interest that the only way I can share that excitement is if I post it to Facebook so it can snake its way through the network to find the one other person I know, whomever it may be, with a compatible mental input port.

Today’s obscure morsel is that Rocket From the Crypt’s distinctive sound was invented two decades earlier by the Australian punk band the Saints.

To call the Saints a “punk band” is somewhat inaccurate because, although they were contemporaries of first-wave British punk and their sound perfectly matches it, the Saints weren’t followers of the movement. They formed a couple of years before the Sex Pistols and even had their first record, the flawless “(I’m) Stranded,” in stores weeks before “Anarchy in the U.K.”

The Saints aren’t well known by most Americans, with the notable exception of Bruce Springsteen. On his 2014 album High Hopes, he included a faithful version of the band’s “Just Like Fire Would” and even directed listeners to “(I’m) Stranded” in the liner notes. “Just Like Fire Would” is a later Saints song, recorded after the band’s sound, like so many other punks’, evolved into more refined, straightforward rock. 2It’s a song I can’t find digitally in the US other than the YouTube video linked to above. Play it with your eyes closed, because Chris Bailey’s wooden performance shamwows the energy right out of the music.

Artyish American white dudes in their forties who would love the Saints all, for the most part, love Rocket From the Crypt. A San Diego band founded in the early Nineties by the prolific John Reis, AKA Speedo, who has more bands than most of people have spoons. Reid has bona fide art-punk credentials as a founding member of the noodley hardcore outfit Drive Like Jehu, but he wanted a purer rock ‘n roll outlet and so assembled the six-piece RftC complete with horn section. They cranked out a distinctive alloy of punk and ’50s rock, as heard in “Young Livers” from 1995’s Scream Dracula Scream:

Rocket From the Crypt is beloved in part because they didn’t sound like any other band of the Nineties, but it turns out they sound a lot like one from 1978. Yesterday, thanks to Spotify’s Discover Weekly robo-curated playlist, I found that between the rawness of “(I’m) Stranded” and the melodic “Just Like Fire Would,” the Saints found a midpoint on their second album, Eternally Yours. They ran some sandpaper over their edges, branched out and even added a brass section to the ridiculously listenable opener “Know Your Product:”

Everything any Rocket From the Crypt fan instantly recognizes is all there in “Know Your Product.” The horns blowing out a bobbing melody over the grinding guitar and charging beat. The sneering, gravely vocals, punctuated by yeahs! and all rights! Even the cryptic song title. And it all sounds as fresh as it did in 1995 as it did in 1978.

Is someone else out there excited about this?

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1. If you’re reading this on Facebook, it’s because it was auto-posted there by WordPress.
2. It’s a song I can’t find digitally in the US other than the YouTube video linked to above. Play it with your eyes closed, because Chris Bailey’s wooden performance shamwows the energy right out of the music.
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