A couple of posts ago, I made some sweeping generalizations about indie fandom in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Here are two more: (1) For many of us, aside from word of mouth, our primary source for finding out about interesting new bands was through zines. (2) We also tended to embrace a kind of “brand loyalty” for particular independent labels, based on the quality of their past output.
These two points explain why I own this mini-LP by Antioch Arrow, a fairly obscure San Diego band that existed for maybe 2 years. I read a glowing feature article about ‘em in Your Flesh, one of the longer-running and most respected underground-rock zines of the era (Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü was one of the cofounders). And in that article, I noted that they’d put stuff out on Gravity Records, a label I already knew and liked from their releases of early stuff by Heroin, Unwound, and Huggy Bear. So, when I saw In Love With Jetts in the bin at Buffalo’s Home of the Hits (RIP), I snagged it.
Buying records in this way was always a gamble, and I’d call this particular purchase a just-breaking-even situation. I was underwhelmed by it when I bought it — it struck me as OK, but not so good as to warrant celebration by one of my favorite zines — and I distinctly remember listening several times back to back, hoping it’d stick, before disappointedly filing it. Might have put it on 3 times in the 20+ years years since; I was really hoping I’d hear something different today, but no dice.
According to folks for whom I’ve got plenty of respect, Antioch Arrow were major influences on subsequent bands in the post-hardcore/“screamo” mold. I can hear that — they, themselves, sound like they’re channeling punk outliers like Rites of Spring and Nation of Ulysses, in their chaotic, dissonant, sprawling-in-spite-of-brevity musical approach (only two of the 9 tracks break the minute-and-a-half mark!). Assuming they could pull off the quick tempo and meter changes in these songs, I bet they were an awesome live band. But on record, their thing comes across kinda flat and same-y; aside from a nice slowish part in penultimate track “The Blessed Test,” and some cool feedback/fretboard scraping leading into “This Great Wall,” it’s all a blur of angst, tritones and speed. Those are fine attributes (to me), and often even better than fine (again, to me), but it just doesn’t do it for me here — though I do give them credit for getting in and out in less than 14 minutes, and the artwork is fantastic.
Ah well — win some, lose some. Listen for yourself; maybe it’ll be just the thing for you.
THOUGHTS FOR LATER:
- I definitely have other records in my collection by bands who put on incredible live shows, but whose energy or what have you doesn’t quite translate to the recorded format. And in those cases, while I objectively recognize the disconnect, I still mostly like the records (or at least appreciate them for what they are, i.e., imperfect reminders of sometimes profound experiences). So I’m wondering how I’d feel about this one if I’d gotten a chance to see Antioch Arrow perform.
- That raises larger questions about recording vs. performance — potentially a rabbit hole of ‘em. I don’t think I wanna go there right now, so I’ll leave that for later pondering.
- San Diego seems to have been something of a hotbed of angst-ridden, off-kilter, noisy bands in the early to mid ‘90s. Heroin, Antioch Arrow, Clikitat Ikatowi, Three Mile Pilot… Could be interesting to suss this out.