Three years after Rocket From the Crypt played their final show, the legendary San Diego band still proves to be the musical gift that keeps on giving. Earlier this year, Vagrant issued R.I.P., a live recording of the band’s final live performance. And while that was a thrilling enough gift for longtime fans, Rocket has unleashed yet another new treasure trove of unreleased music, that being the third and final of the All Systems Go series.
While previous All Systems Go compilations featured tracks from the band’s seven-inch singles, compilation tracks, cover songs and b-sides, this third installment comprises 20 8-track demos, recorded in the band’s practice space between 1997-2000. Though the material on ASGIII has a far less polished and muddier sound (after all, they are demos), the production is on par with any lo-fi purveyor, and perhaps even better than most of Guided by Voices’ early material. This is punk rock in its most raw form, and Rocket From the Crypt, even in an imperfect and unrefined atmosphere, rock harder than just about anyone else.
“Falling Down Stairs” offers an incendiary and exciting opening, while “Total Bummer” proves to be one of the band’s best tracks, no matter how lo-fi. Its blasts of horns and super-catchy chorus are undeniable, while “Little Shaver” kicks out a fantastic guitar and harmonica hook. “Canyon Killer” is just a straight-up, high-energy rock `n’ roll powerhouse, while “Don’t Wanna Be Touched” reveals the makings of what could have been a fantastic single, though in its fuzzy, raw state, it’s still a hell of a tune. The eerie “Orange County” is yet another highlight, with dissonant riffs and spectacular horn harmonization. And in “Pictures,” Speedo & Co. offer up more of the fierce power chord riffs that made them such a powerful presence in the first place.
In hearing the outstanding material on All Systems Go III, it’s a dirty shame that some of these tracks never got the proper studio treatment that they deserved. Yet some tracks, such as “Chariots on Fire” and “When In Rome (Do the Jerk)”, did ultimately end up on Rocket studio albums. It’s just more evidence that even the band’s cast-offs are nothing less than awesome.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.