So here it is, Volume 3 of the posthumous All Systems Go series of Rocket From The Crypt releases. There sure are getting to be a lot of them. This installment is on the label they broke up on, Vagrant Records. While the previous ASG releases featured rare and b-side material, Volume 3 is comprised of twenty demo songs recorded in the band's San Diego practice space.
Now, don't get your pegged pants all in a bunch. All of the recordings on ASR Vol. 3 are from 1997-2000, so it's not exactly the lost Paint As A Fragrance sessions or anything, but it's certainly not to say that it isn't pretty fucking great. To sweeten the pot for you all, most of the twenty tracks here are unreleased, at least here in the States. There are a handful of demo versions of late-period chestnuts like "Chariots On Fire" from the Euro pressing of Group Sounds, plus "When In Rome (Do The Jerk)" and "Dick On A Dog" from the self-titled Interscope record, but by and large this is all virgin material.
The sixteen others (plus a Wall Of Voodoo cover that isn't "Mexican Radio") are shockingly good for cast-offs. In most cases, it's pretty unclear to me why the songs were left on the cutting room floor in favor of a lot of the Vagrant material, but I guess hindsight is 20/20. For 8-track demo recordings, though, the quality is pretty amazing. RFTC ringleader John Reis has said that if Rocket from the Crypt were around today, they would sound a lot like the songs here. I assume Reis engineered the material here. He's no slouch behind the board, having engineered a number of your favorite records, including Superchunk milestone On The Mouth and many others. There's a gritty rawness that you'll recognize from the band's heyday and want a whole lot more of.
I was a pretty big Rocket fan, but even my nostalgic ass figured that twenty tracks would get old pretty quick. I've never been more pleased to be wrong. The songs on All Systems Go, Vol 3 pass in but fifty short minutes, in two and three minute bursts that never overstay their welcome. I would defy any band this side of The Hold Steady to offer up three b-sides that are as good as "Man Down", "Summer Survivor", and especially "Luck Is The New 13", where Reis tears an already out-of-control rip-snorter a new one. If you ever wondered why he's been a part of so many seminal bands, that song will remind you. While the RFTC guitars have an edge, the horns, described by Vagrant oh so eloquently as 'ferociously ska-free' push things into the red, making songs like "Tiger Mask" a worthy soundtrack to your next Thursday night whiskey bender.
If you're a devotee of the series bemoaning the RFTC well running dry, fear not, as there is a Volume 4 of All Systems Go rumored to be dropping soon on Vagrant in a CD/DVD form. In the meantime, slap on a little pomade, throw this on and get a little sweaty like in the old days.