Thursday, June 19, 2008

LAUGHING HYENAS ~ Merry Go Round [Full CD] ~ 1987

Quite possibly one of the most under-rated/under-appreciated bands ever. Yeah, I'm biased, as I've loved this band for nearly 20 years. Now it's your turn...

From AMG: They had obvious influences (most notably the Birthday Party and Fun House-era Stooges), but the Laughing Hyenas were a fierce, sulfuric blast of fresh noise that galvanized the Michigan punk scene with this 1987 debut. Merry-Go-Round is a brawling, bloodied lip of a record, delivering twice the cathartic buzz that vocalist John Brannon's former group, Negative Approach could muster, and even then at half the speed. The Laughing Hyenas perfected their attack over the course of the next two releases, reaching a climax with the brutal masterpiece Life of Crime, but Merry-Go-Round sets the template with deceptively simple voodoo blues and a rhythmic complexity that's rarely acknowledged. Kevin Strickland's sinister bass riffs are in lock-step with Jim Kimball's tribal thud, and together they form one of rock's great rhythm sections, laying the framework for Larissa Strickland's jagged, strangled guitar and Brannon's raging, throat-ripping bellow. The Laughing Hyenas dealt primarily with pain, both sonically and lyrically, examining the pain of love, lust, guilt, and death. Even if Brannon wasn't yet at his lyrical peak (much of the imagery seems drawn from gangster movies), he was already penning some striking lines, particularly the introductory confession that he's "been a sinner all my life/But that you already know," aiming to "stain the walls with love." Other numbers find him repeating stanzas from previous songs or just filling space, but the lyrics to "Hell's Kitchen" are priceless rock & roll-scat nonsense at its best ("Popeye the sailor man/He lives in my frying pan/I turn up the gas/Burn off his ass/Popeye the sailor man"). "Gabriel" is the centerpiece, a dark celestial vision distinguished by a funereal trumpet hook that most successfully conjures the spirits the Hyenas were after. The compact disc release of the original EP comes augmented with some nice extras, most notably "Soul Kiss," previously available only on the cassette version of Merry-Go-Round. Also welcome is the frenzied, aggressive "Candy," from the B-side of the "Here We Go Again" single. Recorded live in Germany, "Dedications to the One I Love" is proof of the hypnotic intensity the Hyenas were capable of in person, plus Brannon's confused, deadpan banter with the audience ("I can't even think") gives a taste of the damaged charisma they radiated on-stage. The remaining tracks date from the waning days of the original lineup, recorded with guitarist P.W. Long (who was soon to poach the rhythm section for Mule); "Don't Bouge My High" is funnier than probably intended, and the band's contribution to a 1992 Alice Cooper tribute single for Sub Pop ("Public Animal #9"), is a game try from genuine fans, but will only sound good to someone who can't compare it to the prototype.

Hell's Kitchen
That Girl
What Tomorrow Brings
Soul Kiss
Dedications To The One I Love
Don't Bouge My High
Public Animal #9

320 .mp3 (vbr)

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