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Liquorball vs. Monoshock: Psych vs. Song

It really sucks when folks remain adherents to a band simply because they heard it earlier than a similar ensemble, which winds up being unquestionably better.

I recently turned a dude onto Monoshock, an East-Bay harbinger of early millennial sludge and psych. After taking a listen – something we should all do – the guy figured out the band featured a guy named Grady Runyan, the same guy from Liquorball. This latter band, I’d never heard of. Well, latter isn’t the right word. The band actually formed prior to Monoshock and has released way more albums than the better known group – and done so more recently.

While the two ensembles share a bit in common, there’re just as many things separating the groups. Monoshock, perhaps the heavier of the bands in its own way, isn’t short on improvised sections. The group does have nine minute songs after all. But they’re still songs. And it doesn’t seem that Liquorball ever had any intention of writing catchy tunes, which is fine. But after listening to one side of just about any release from that group, it seems like enough.

Released in 1992, Liquorballs first long playing album, Fucks the Sky, came out at about the same time as the world was focused on Seattle. The band’s album wouldn’t have been out of place among Tad, Mudhoney and their ilk. But there’s something way more evil going on here – you shoulda known from the album’s title. Runyan doesn’t sing – in Monoshock either – so much as he appropriates a voice sounding closest to Captain Beefheart fronting a metal band. What kind of metal, you ask? Well, maybe black metal. How’s that.

The disc doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s just a successive bunch of grouping around in different keys while some electronic equipment makes a scratchy mess off in the background and drums thrash around. The rest of Liquorballs full lengths don’t do much to switch up the approach. On Willie the Worm, issued in 1991 as a single, the band does get into songcraft, a bit. And oddly enough, winds up sounding like an extension of the sludgey rock stuff getting issued on Sub Pop. It’s not the greatest clutch of songs ever released, but the disc’s second song, ranks pretty high up there on the repeat-o psych scale.

Getting to hear all these tracks, apparently springing from one guy’s understanding of music, it’s really bizarre to have bands like Comets on Fire kicking around while Runyon couldn’t get a record deal if he traded in his record store. No justice, huh?