It’s hard to fathom where rock would be without the Velvet
Underground, whose mix of intellectualism and primitivism created a new dramatic
structure – intentionally flirting with chaos – for the popular song. We’re
still finding bands influenced by them but who never got their due, and Supreme
Dicks, subject of this four-disc reissue of late-1980s/early 1990s material, is
a major rediscovery.
It combines two albums officially released (1993’s The Unexamined Life and 1996’s The Emotional Plague) with one of
earlier material and one combining a later EP, This Is Not a Dick, with rare cuts. Emerging out of Hampshire
College in Massachusetts, the band was technically challenged but bravely
committed to the need for musical struggle. As a result, their often-dark songs
have a triumphant dimension, as when “Jack-O-Lantern” moves from tentative
guitar exploration to blisteringly urgent, note-holding vocals. And the foray
into free-jazz trumpeting and chanting on “A Donkey’s Burial in a Tower on a
Mirage” shows their ability to create memorable soundscapes.
“Careful With That Axe, Steve” STEVEN ROSEN