SAVAGE REPUBLIC  Tragic Figures: 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition  2 x CD   (Real Gone Music)   19.99

Colossal 2022 reissue

The LP is available on red vinyl in a pressing of 2000 copies, packaged in a particularly striking gatefold jacket.

Hailing from a window of time in the 1980s when bands, partuclarly American ones, were taking the influence of paradigm-shifting post-punk like Public Image Ltd., Joy Division, Wire and Gang Of Four into more harrowing, aggressive, abject dimensions, the earliest Savage Republic music is dark and mesmeric and harsh on their debut album Tragic Figures from 1982. Along with the influence of the screeching atonality and anti-social skronk of the NYC No Wave crowd, this music also leeched some of the primal percussive power and dystopic deliria of the burgeoning post-industrial music scene, and found Savage Republic (for awhile at least) creating an abrasive clamor and more menacing attitude that would get comparisons, then and now, to other early 80s street-beaters like Swans and Big Black. I ended up discovering Savage Republic way later in life, which is aggravating; if I had heard this in my teens when I was utterly obsessed with Swans and the early proto-noise rock underground, Tragic Figures would've been rumbling out of my bedroom at all hours of day and night. When I finally had someone shove this record under my nose several years ago, it was kinda revelatory. This stuff was heavy, not in the metallic sense of course, but heavy in mood and 'tude, more aggressive and acerbi9c than what I might have expected to hear.

That cover image of Iranian military forces executing Kurdish rebels in 1979

On the first side, the music is tilted towards more of an instrumental breakout - the metal-on-metal percussive frenzy comes on strong as opener "When All Else Fails" bursts forth like a crazed protest assault, an array of rattling, stomping, clanking rhythms laid over each other while heavy bass and chugging distorted guitar grind out simple, sludgy, skull-mashing riffs. That wild rebeliious energy burns brightly throughout the album, from the aggressive tribal beats and menacing two-chord muck-punk of "Attempted Coup : Madagascar Percussion", the winding spiky guitar and multi-level polyrhtyms that energize "The Ivory Coast" as it rumbles and shakes, those sinister No Wave influences merging with that relentless syncopated drive on "Next To Nothing", on to the clanking industrial drone rock raga of the back-to-back "Exodus" and "Machinery" (whose pissed-off hardcore punk-style vocal delivery summons vivid visions of our slow moving apocalypse), te super-short ritual loop "Zulu Zulu ", that crumbling mass of distortion, gnarly bass riffage, and burgeoning violence that underscores the satirical "Real Men". This stuff gets even more unnerving towards the end as anguished shrieks ring out over "Flesh That Walks"'s feral racket and cannibal manifestos. "Kill The Fascists!" is a pretty straightfoward junkyard symphony (recorded in the underground tunnels beneath UCLA) that speaks pretty clearly for itself, but it all drifts into oblivion when closer "Procession" disassembles the band's sounds into a hypnotizing haze..

It's all quite noisy and abrasive, paerticularly from the guitar, whose peformance delivers a tetanus-infected shock of slashing droning strings, burly and bass-heavy slow-motion power chord dirges, gusts of atonal skree, and some straight-up brain damaged shredding that takes me to some kind of malfunctioning nirvana state.

- this is clearly the stuff that critic Robert Christgau was talking about in his old review of the album where he described Tragic as resembling "Flipper doing Afropop originals?".

Obviously fans of the more abject and twisted end of experimental sludge-punk are going to find some real meta to chew on here, if there was anything even close to a modern analogue to Savage Republic's early urban-conflict wardance it might be that Billy Bao stuff; there's no way that those guys weren't luistening to this stuff on repeat.

The other disc pulls all of the pre-Savage Republic recordings together, from when the group called themselves Africa Corps and recorded their music in UCLA area parking garages. And man, this stuff is great! Most of these tracks have never before been released; the majority of these songs were carried over onto the Savage debut ("Attempted Coup : Madagascar", "When All Else Fails", "Real Men", etc.), but here they sound even more immediate and cacophonic, record live together in a group frenzy, all of the heavy sludge-punk riffs even grungier and filthier here, the guitar's barbed-wire post-punk/No Wave-influenced raga-like drones and sharp biting chords and angry discordant scrapes pushed further up in the mix. There is so much clank and glass and pipe-banging mixed up with the trance-inducing drumming that it sweeps over your senses, random yelling and raging and howling in the background behind the main vocalist (momentarily reminding me of the most aggro moments from Cro-Magnon), with these general feeling of hysteria and anxiety and flailing hostility being unleashed.

Some of these songs only appear here, like the fleeting junk-freakout "The Vampire Bites ", the severely bizarre experimental tape-music spewed across "Next To Nothing Weirdness", and amazing ectatsic freeform explosions like "Thee Three Preserves" and "Sliding Into Arabia" with their imposing, crudely formed melodies informed by Middle Eastern scales

the eleven minute version of "Procession (Into The Light)" is completely mesmerizing, just an endless tribal rhythm delivered to a state of __________________

and the burlier, murkier version of "Exodus" that whips up a spectacular drone-rock mantra

I think that the "Tragic Figures" recordings of all of this are superior in the end, but hearing the musicians working out their ideas and attack together sounds great on this preface recording, definitely a recommended listen for fans of what the band would quickly evolve into

Track Samples:
Sample : Flesh That Walks
Sample : Machinery
Sample : Attempted Coup: Madagascar