The Styrenes – All the Wrong People are Dying – Review

The Styrenes

All the Wrong People are Dying (Overground)
by Jon Sarre

Direct on the heels of the Styrenes‘ first record in close to a decade, the smash We Care, So You Don’t Have To, comes this compilation of difficult-to-find work by Paul Marotta’s revolving company of hard-art rocking sometimes somebodies. All The Wrong People Are Dying includes tracks from the 1989 Tinnitus LP A Monster And The Devil, their 1996 Drag City 12” single, a 1982 Mustard Records 45, and a Scat Records Cleveland comp. For personnel, former Electric Eel (the ultimate art punk band, who collectively burned out a long time before the tag line existed) Marotta is joined by, among others, ex-Pagans vocalist-turned reporter Mike Hudson, guitar player Jamie Klimak (of the seminal ’60s Cleveland Velvets-inspired Mirrors) and poetess Charlotte Pressler (who haikus tape-looped absurdities on the ’82 Mustard cut, “True Confessions”).

The stuff off A Monster And The Devil comprises the bulk of All The Wrong People… Mostly the material features Hudson monologuing in his street punk dialect through slice-of-life stories where “People who live here stare at you and hate you from their front porches as you walk by because you’re walking and they’re just sitting there” (“Last Hot Day”). He scat-sings on one number (“Memory of You”) like a drunken lounge lizard, morphing, as the song progresses, into Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, while Marotta pounds out cocktail-hour blues on his piano, interrupted, suddenly, for a few tense seconds, by Klimak’s screechy “White Light/White Heat” guitar solo. On “Back in Hell” they switch to power drill guitar noise and “serious music” piano chords as Hudson talks his Every-Alcoholic home from work, where he thinks about some Thorazine he coulda had if his future wife didn’t burn him on the deal, he wants to blot out the world, but, instead, he makes up with her. The album’s final cut, “Jetsam,” is an epic nineteen-and-one-half minutes of junkies running dry to a soundtrack of art-rock hell burning holes in Hudson’s stream of consciousness like carelessly flung cigarette butts.

“All The Wrong People Are Dying,” from the Styrenes’ Drag City single, is likewise heavy stuff. Hudson recounts his brother Brian’s death, along with the ends of Stiv Bators, Johnny Thunders, and Pete Haskin (who played sax on A Monster And The Devil). “Death was always funny to me before. Funny to us all,” he explains as Marotta’s ivories and Fred Lonberg-Holm’s cello turn what shoulda been a dirge into surprisingly light music while Klimak’s treble-heavy bird-call riffs mock everyone, creating an uneasy, funny poignancy which balances out Hudson’s attempt to find any meaning in life or death. All in all, this disc is essential for anyone who’s even vaguely interested in this band.
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