Saturday, August 22, 2009

postpunk on the prairie: Rapeman

In 1987, Steve Albini had had enough.

Big Black had outlived its purpose - singer/guitarist Albini, guitarist Santiago Durango, bassist David Riley and drummer Roland all believed that they'd taken the Big Black concept as far as it could go within its constraints. And besides, Sant was entering law school that fall, so it was a convenient time to call it a day after a farewell tour and the obligatory final LP.

Then Albini got bored. Restless. Itchy to play out again - there was yet music to be played. And no band to do so!

Conveniently enough, Austin, Texas postpunk legends (in their own time) Scratch Acid had just broken up and had a phenomenal rhythm section just waiting to be taken. Rey Washam (drums) and David Wm. Sims (bass) hightailed it up to Chicago and joined Albini for his new project.

Calling themselves Rapeman after a very graphic Japanese serial comic (a name guaranteed to gain the hearts and minds of Albini's heretofore-underground female fan base), the trio gigged around Chicago and the American Midwest, played Europe, and recorded a few songs.

Then, they broke up. For the usual reasons, according to Albini - someone just didn't get along with someone else, the usual bullshit.

Certainly it didn't help matters that the name was keeping them off the radio (not that they were looking for that angle, mind you) and causing them endless frustration in touring Europe. So they too just called it a day - but in this case, listening to the music in retrospect you get the feeling that they were just getting started, that they'd just skimmed the surface of the power, the noise, the energy the trio was certainly capable of making. The sentence that was just beginning to write itself starting with the word "Rapeman" just didn't seem to have a period at the end of it.

Of course this wasn't the end for any of the members - Albini went on to sustain a prolific engineering career recording a gajillion (roughly) records for bands across the musical spectrum, and also performs indie-riffic music to this day with his latest project Shellac (with Todd Trainer and Bob Weston). David Wm. Sims rejoined Scratch Acid alum David Yow in the Jesus Lizard, and Rey Washam flitted about the underground scene with stints in Ministry, the Didjits, Tad, and quite a few other lesser-known acts.

Rapeman (Rx for short) did not leave much of a recorded legacy in its wake. With just two 7" singles, a 4-track EP and one full-length LP marking their existence, it's difficult to ascertain where they would have headed had the band continued. That being said, Rx finds Albini in true song-writing mode for the first time (as one wag put it, he actually learned to write songs!) and their recorded work showpieces the classic Albini guitar shards moreso than Big Black ever did.

The first Rapeman release was the 4-track EP Budd. "Budd" the song is about the sad sorrowful ending of one R. Budd Dwyer - just search the internets for the story. "Budd" and two other tracks were recorded live at Chicago's Exit on Bastille Day, 1988, while the last track "Dutch Courage" was "recorded dead at CRC, Chicago, Juneteenth, 1988".

Next came the "Hated Chinee" / "Marmoset" 7", a taster for the upcoming LP.

And then we have the LP Two Nuns and a Pack Mule, perhaps the best all-around album an Albini band has ever recorded. "Produced" by Fluss - Albini's cat, a clear indication of Albini's thoughts on what a producer should do, these ten bile and pile-driven tracks are about as good a showcase of the Albini songwriting style as you'll find. Abrasive, funny, sharp and cutting, these tracks address topics such as future Shellac drummer Todd Trainer's monobrow (err, the track "Monobrow") and a pair of female panties given to Albini, on Big Black's final tour, by Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon (the track "Kim Gordon's Panties").

Lastly, in 1989 the band released one final effort as part of the Sub Pop Singles Club monthly series of limited 7" releases. The instrumental tracks "Inki's Butt Crack" and "Song Number One" are as good as anything on the album or EP and could be an indication of where Rx would have gone had they continued.

I'm including all the above bar the "Hated Chinee" 7" (since I don't have it, and AFAIK the tracks are identical to the album versions) in one file linked below.

Here goes - enjoy!

Up Beat: The Mostly Complete Discography 1988-1989

(1988 Touch and Go Records T&GLP#34)

01 Budd
02 Superpussy
03 Log Bass
04 Dutch Courage


(1988 Touch and Go Records T&GLP#36)

01 Steak And Black Onions
02 Monobrow
03 Up Beat
04 Coition Ignition Mission
05 Kim Gordon's Panties
06 Hated Chinee
07 Radar Love Lizard
08 Marmoset
09 Just Got Paid
10 Trouser Minnow

Rx's descriptions for each track:
1. We don't hate vegetarians, we just think they're funny
2. Singular eyebrow as a fashion statement / Drunkasexual
3. Puny but angry
4. Professed goal of space program: conception and birth in space
5. Blatant Coachmen ripoff
6. Lotten flucking ruck
7. Golden earring tribute / reptile tendencies
8. Lincoln Park Zoo Nocturnal Mammal Building / failed hummer
9. Bonus Edgar Blossom muchas gracias
10. Men suck

(1989 Sub Pop Singles Club SP40, limited edition 1500 black vinyl, 1000 clear vinyl)

01 Inki's Butt Crack
02 Song Number One

"Inki's Butt Crack" is credited on the label to (Spencer, Moore, Mascis) - as in Jon Spencer, Thurston Moore, and J Mascis - but this is a joke. The song is a variation on Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave)".

edit: Removed link.


  1. amazing...

    actually, the Marmoset on the 7" is different than the LP version (and BETTER!...fatter drums).

    there's also two tracks on Devil's Jukebox (aka 'Nothing Short of Total War' compilation)...

    but, certainly, this will give ya a taste of one of the greatest bands EVER!!

    god bless ya!

  2. notsaved: Can you upload - if you have it - lossless copies of "Hated Chinee" / "Marmoset" from the 7"? Would greatly appreciate it!

    Same goes for the Nothing Short of Total War trax. I have that as low-bitrate MP3 and even so I think the release itself is a bit sketchy - the trax don't sound like demos for starters!

  3. cheers for this, i've already got these from elsewhere but you're the man for quality so i'll regrab them from you. i bought the budd ep when it came out and wasn't impressed by it and never got the LP - i missed out at the time but it's good to discover it many years later though. shellac have been back on high rotation with me over the last year as well, you can pretty much hear where rapeman went after this...

  4. AL, is there any chance of a re-up on this? I love the "Marmoset" vinyl rip. Thanks.

  5. I do not have a rip of the Marmoset 7" - I'd love a copy myself!