The Best of America Underground

The Best of America Underground (ROIR Cassettes) 1983. I picked this up at The Great Streetside Records Purge of 1994 and I have never been the same since. This tape, more than anything else, reintroduced me to the New Wave underground of 1980s America. Sure I was familiar with The B-52s and the Talking Heads but by 1994 my mind had been so abused by Hardcore, Noise, Grunge, Pigfuck and just general guitar based squall that I remember thinking the song World War III by The Suburbs sounded positively revolutionary, what with its rollicking melody and catchy guitar riff. All of a sudden, those Live Skull records I had bought on Homestead seemed kinda boring and I began falling in love with New Wave all over again. There are just so many classic songs on this compilation; from the sugar-sweet powerpop of The Shoes to the avant-Eno stylings of The Styrene Jass Band. How about the classic New Wave ska sounds of the Erector Set and the fractured grooves of Pylon as they “eat dub for breakfast”? And that is just part of the A-Side of this classic tape, released by ROIR, a cassette-only tape company that used to advertise in the back of Trouser Press and was responsible for more cool releases than you can shake a stick at. Other standouts include Algebra Suicide with their poetic True Romance at the World’s Fair and the Tweeds with the powerpop of Underwater Girl. How about the art-punk of the Bizarros and the New Wave fun of the Dub Rifles? And then of course, they end the tape of with Armand Schaubroeck doing a shortened version of the Independent Hitter, a completely indescribable piece of performance art. I have swapped out the shortened version of the song with the full length version of it from his classic album Ratfucker because I am, at heart, a giver.

The Best of America Underground

01. Chris Moffa & The Competition / You Know How Hot (It’s Been Getting Around Here)
02. Martha Hull / Feelin’ Right Tonight
03. Norman Salant / Tickets Are Free
04. Erector Set / Inside Out
05. Poli Styrene Jass Band / Drano in Your Veins
06. Shoes / Like I Told You
07. Nerves / Working Too Hard
08. R. Stevie Moore / Manufacturers
09. Residents / The Booker Tease
10. Pylon / Dub

11. Gary Valentine / The First One
12. Fans / True
13. Tweeds / Underwater Girl
14. Bunnydrums / Crawl
15. Wrinklemuzik / A Move to the Right
16. Algebra Suicide / True Romance at the World’s Fair
17. Suburbs / World War III
18. Dub Rifles / Stand
19. Bizarros / I, Bizarro
20. Armand Schaubroeck Steals / The Independent Hitter

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9 Responses to The Best of America Underground

  1. Rinjo Njori says:

    Now I shall break out my “tape” and listen to this.. old skull? I never quite got them, I was more of a Squirrel Bait guy

  2. Andrew Weiss says:

    You rock, Joe. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Paraphrase says:

    “Dub Rifles” = high-energy Canadian quasi-ska group – like the Bosstones but with the superior 80s zeitgeist.

  4. Joe says:

    @Rinjo – break out the tape man! However, I said Live Skull not Old Skull. Old Skull were pretty hilarious.

    @ Parapharase – Do you have more of the Dub Rifles? GREAT song!

    @Andrew – Long time no hear! Glad to hear you like it.

  5. Dave says:

    Figures it would take something like this to get me to listen to The Suburbs again… they were a part of my “college rock” phase (along with stuff like the Waterboys and XTC) before I started listening to strictly hardcore.

    And I still don’t mind Live Skull, I listened to “Dusted” a couple of times last week and it still sounded pretty good… they were a lot better live then they were on record; James Lo is an incredible drummer.

  6. jonder says:

    There was a time when the debut albums by the Suburbs and the Replacements were always on my turntable (and I had a Trouser Press subscription, too!) I think the Suburbs lost the plot when they got too much into the Talking Heads. Just like Paul Westerberg said, “I can’t figure out ‘Music for Boys’…” But that first Suburbs album (In Combo) has some shit-hot guitar playing on it, and most of the songs are short, fast and loud (not unlike Sorry, Ma). The Suburbs were funny, too. My kids think “Cows” is one of the best songs ever. I made a comp CD for my kids with “Cows”, the Teen Idles’ “I Drink Milk”, the Leaving Trains’ “Ice Cream Truck”, and the Descendents’ “I Like Food”. I shoulda put “Customer” by the Mats on there too.

  7. Raymond S. says:

    Cool post Joe.
    The Trouser Press record guides were the pre-internet source for details about what to buy from the import record shop. I still really like the Dub Rifles. I always thought that they had a hint of the English Beat to their sound. I recently commented on one of your recent posts about another group from our scene, the Stretch Marks, who despite differences in musical approach, shared the stage with the Dub Rifles more than once. Here is one example, “The Lost Movie”, available on DVD.
    Filmed in the old porno theatre the night before demolition. Here is one track each from the Dub Rifles, Stretch Marks, Ruggedy Annes, the Nostrils and Monuments Galore (aka Monumental Bore).
    NOTE…the sound and video are pretty rough!!!
    As far as I can remember, the Dub Rifles released 2 7″s; the No Town No Country e.p. in 1982, and Boom,
    which contains the track Testify in ’83. I think some German label may have released some semi-legit 12″.

  8. Seth says:

    I discovered this tape in Smash! of DC about 8 years ago in their old tapes bin–it’s great! Might be my favorite Pylon song; and a very sweet one by R. Stevie Moore! I like them all except “The Independent Hitter,” which makes my skin crawl–World War III is awesome. I destroyed the tape last night by accident, though, and the download keeps showing up as a document on my Mac–any recommendations?

  9. Alexey says:

    This has to be one of the best thgins I’ve listened to in a long time, and I am including all my fav bands lately. BIG THANK YOU to the bands & IVM, this is just Gold.

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