I was a tad obsessive about Rocket From the Crypt when they were around, so I was utterly thrilled when I stumbled across All Systems Go, Vol. 3 at the record store. It appears to have been released without any fanfare, which is too bad as I imagine there are a lot of fans who don’t realize this is out there.
For those not familiar, San Diego’s Rocket From the Crypt were the garage band nonpareil for about a decade beginning in 1991. Led by singer/guitarist John Reis (Speedo to fans), their sound was like an amplified version of the raunchiest Nuggets-type stuff, sort of like the Sonics with a horn section, broadcast through a football stadium PA system. And boy, did they tear it up live.
For awhile there, they cranked out new material at an astonishing rate. They had seven studio albums in their eleven recording years, some EPs, and an ungodly number of non-LP singles, compilation tracks, B-sides, and other stuff. Much of the non-LP material is collected on the packed-to-the-gills All Systems Go, volumes 1 and 2, and there is enough out there for another couple of volumes.
I was expecting All Systems Go, Vol. 3 to round up another bunch of stray tracks, but it doesn’t. Subtitled The Lost Masters, 1997-2000, it’s instead a bunch of demos that mostly were never released. Upon realizing that I had just paid money for unreleased demos, I was prepared to spin it once, bitch a bit to the one or two people I know who love this band, and file it away for the sake of completeness because that’s what record geeks do instead of selling off junk.
Wrong-o. ASG3 packs a wallop. The songs don’t sound demo quality, or, to be more accurate, they sound no more demo quality than most of the band’s proper albums. There are hooks galore, and furious guitars and horns that will pummel you until you say “uncle.”
RFTC album-buyers will only be familiar with “When in Rome (Do the Jerk)” and “Dick on a Dog” from the slickly-produced (not an insult) RFTC album, presented here in rawer form. That might not have worked for a lot of the material on that album, but it’s great for these two tracks. Fans who have delved deeper may be familiar with a couple of other songs, “Chariots on Fire” and “This Way Out.” I’m pretty sure the other sixteen tracks will be completely new to anyone who is not a personal friend of Speedo’s.
This batch of demos actually holds together as an album, and a pretty darn good one. In fact, ASG3 is much better than RFTC’s final studio album, Live From Camp X-Ray, their only dud and a disappointing ending to a stellar career. Knowing they were cutting much of this material around the same time makes me wonder, what the hell were they thinking?
Well, who cares what they were thinking? I’ve got the stuff now. You should get it, too.
“Chariots on Fire”:
“No Way At All”: