Endtables – Process of Elimination (Drag City Records) 2010. A lot has already been said on various interweb sources about The Endtables recently. See, Drag City has recently released a compilation of the bands material that includes all six songs from their 1979 recording session in Louisville, KY. Two of these songs, White Glove Test and Trick or Treat were released on a bootleg in 1991 on Self-Destruct Records. The other four songs make up their seminal self-titled 7inch EP that was released on their own Tuesday Records imprint in 1979. The Drag City record is rounded out by a by a bunch of amazing unreleased live tracks and a couple of videos that will blow your mind.
Most of us non-Kentuckians were introduced to The Endtables on the classic Bloodstains Across The Midwest bootleg back in the 1990s and we were all a little bit confused. It’s the exact opposite of “punk-by-numbers”. The track in question, entitled Process of Elimination made absolutely no sense to me what with its treble-damaged guitar riffage and David Thomas style-warbling. Here was a real what-the-fuck-is-this sort of discovery. I remember it like it was yesterday. An experience I later found is common for fellow Endtable aficionados.
Compounded on top of the inherent weirdness of the music was the sheer genius of the record cover which is so cool, Drag City went and made it the cover of this new re-release. We’re talking archetypal punk photography here, peoples. In fact, it reminds me of the back cover of the Germs album GI, in the sense that there are four mug shots of the band and these mug-shots capture the personalities of the performers perfectly.
On GI, Pat and Darby sneer at you. These are the guys in high school that sold you rat poison and told you it was acid. Don Bolles looks at you dead on. He’s the kid who ate the rat poison (and probably still tripped his balls off). Lorna Doom stares off to the side. She’s beautiful and glamorous in that “City of Lost Angels” sort of way. Its’ a brilliant coup because it captures the essence of the personalities that make up the band. While listening to GI, you repeatedly find yourself drawn to the photos on the back. Its’ style is its substance. Its’ perfect.
Now, take a look at the cover of the Endtables 7inch and ask yourself, is the same thing happening here? What do these photos say about this band? Drummer Steven Jan Humphrey occupies the top left corner. He looks like a thug who is contemplating kicking your ass. To his right is the guitarist, Alex Durig and he looks at you dead on. Where The Germs traded in Hollywood larger-than-life glamour, Alex appears to be a nondescript Midwestern dude with feathered hair. Look at his eyes though. He knows that he is engaged in something completely subversive. Below Alex is his little brother Albert who was only 15 at the time of this release. Albert is the only one smiling in his mug-shot. He’s just a kid along for the ride and he’s riding with some crazy motherfuckers, the craziest of which is to his left. Steve Rigot the singer is in extreme close-up. He peers up at you malevolently with his leather jacket collar popped up, like one of the bad guys in the original Mad Max. The eyeliner only adds to the creepy Aryan-murderer vibe he has on the cover of this EP.
When you listen to the tracks on the Endtables 7inch, especially Circumcision, and you look at the pictures of the band, you rapidly start to wonder how the fuck something like this could come to be in Midwestern America circa 1979. I mean Circumcision is such a completely depraved song. But not only are the lyrics depraved, the structures of the songs themselves are completely off-the-wall. Were these guys listening to any other bands at the time? Because they don’t sound like it. This is pretty damn far removed from The Ramones.
A few years back, I was introduced formally to Louisville’s punk past with the release of Bold Beginnings and it’s been a pretty solid relationship ever since. I found out at that time, that with the possible exception of Malignant Growth, none of the original Louisville bands sounded like anything else going on anywhere and I have gone to the town a number of times to try to understand how this could happen. The city seems to have a long tradition of doing its own thing whether it’s the nihilistic no-wave of Circle X or the off-kilter weirdness of Your Food and even recently with bands like Verktum. But even from this perspective, The Endtables weirdness reigns supreme.
The other thing I discovered upon looking at the jacket of Bold Beginnings was that Steve Rigot is transgendered. Now if you were Alex Rigot in 1978 Kentucky and you knew a 400 pound, 6’7” hermaphrodite who wrote songs about circumcision and he wanted to form a band with you, would you? What kind of music would you compose? Would you get your little brother and one of your toughest friends and form a punk band? Or would you have second guessed yourself and not pursued any of it because it was something that just should not, in any normal conception of the universe, be?
I can tell you what most kids would have done back then. They would have smoked weed and looked at CHIPS. Reason being that kids are just little people and most people are chumps.
Luckily for us Alex decided to go for it. To pass up this opportunity would have made him a chump for life. Something that he and the rest of The Endtables clearly weren’t. You shouldn’t be a chump either. You should buy the CD and let your freak flag fly. Life is too short for “punk-by-numbers”. Break the figurine.