I have a problem with any cultural love-fest that celebrates very recent history. Reminiscent of high school students, who, once graduated, almost immediately come back to visit their old homeroom or English teachers, nostalgia for something that time hasn't yet had its way with has always struck me as a rather banal practice.
Nevertheless, a lot of music fans seem to revel in such behavior, and currently haunting their moldy oldies circuit is the spectre of 90s garage rock—a scene which one might argue has barely had time to keel over and become chilly to the touch. And yet somehow, at no one's insistence, here it is again!
At the time it was happening, I liked a lot of its bands and saw many of them perform live pretty regularly. But its more lasting influence manifested in my pursuit of weirdo sounds that pre-dated the Estrus/In the Red/Crypt phenomenon—similar acts who'd come and gone without a tidily-packaged musical movement to be part of.
Fortunately, I was a DJ at WPRB during most of those years, and so had a huge library of old records to dig through for what I then regarded as the missing links between 60s runoff like Back from the Grave, and the more punk rock-influenced sounds of Teengenerate or the Mummies.
The most critical of my discoveries, and the one that's most obviously tarnished my personal aesthetic, were Tav Falco's Panther Burns. Often mentioned in the same breath as the Cramps for blazing a trail into the future with a keenly focused eye on the past, the Panther Burns brought the dark underbelly of American roots culture right into the limelight, yet their considerable role in sculpting the scene that's now being canonized is seldom mentioned. For shame, pop archaeologists!
Equally adept at fuzzed-out rockers like "Cuban Rebel Girl" as they are at incorporating left field influences like beat poetry, fringey visual arts, and tango (!!), Panther Burns have never been easy to pigeonhole, and it's a safe bet that no one's ever going to emulate the full breadth of their expansive oeuvre. The band's catalog is fairly huge, and Wikipedia does an exceptional job of breaking down their long history. But for newcomers to the party, definitely secure yourself a copy of Behind the Magnolia Curtain (Rough Trade, 1981)—far and away one of my most frequently returned-to LPs of that era.
Use this player to hear "Cuban Rebel Girl"—probably one of the more badass songs to rattle your cage this week—and then check some epic Panther Burns video after the jump.
Live at JC Dobbs in Philadelphia, 1988. Notice Tav is in a neckbrace! (Also, that's Lorette Velvette.)
"Born Too Late" -- An "expressionistic 35mm motion picture...filmed in Budapest at Club Feszek."