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Plastic Crimewave Sound - Flashing Open

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Artist: Plastic Crimewave Sound

Album: Flashing Open

Label: Rocket Recordings

Review date: Aug. 31, 2004

Plastic Crimewave is the trippy alias of one Steve Krakow, the oddly goth-haired fellow responsible for the psychedelia-centric mega-zine, Galactic Zoo Dossier (recently compiled by Drag City into a hefty compendium). However, when he makes music, Mr. P.C. rounds up a band of scuzzy sonic thugs, throws ‘Sound’ on his moniker, and amps the distortion. From there on out, it’s a low-ceilinged wind tunnel of scratch and sniff, sound and fury.

Flashing Open is PCS’s first full-length, and Julian Cope even liked it enough to give it the esteemed Record of the Month status on his psych-biased web page, Head Heritage. It’s not hard to see why. Plastic Crimewave Sound manage to embody the mania of mind-expansion (via multiple flangers and delay pedals) but without foregoing their gritty boot-hold on the crap-streaked concrete beneath; theirs is a cosmos viewed from grimy alleyways, through muted glass and too many telephone wires.

Misleadingly, the album starts near-Eastern, with Krakow moan-droning “No vision” over lengthy, stretched stanzas of sibilant cymbals and reversed guitar curls before rousing into a spitting, street-fighter stomp, which is where PCS really shine. And burn. Songs like “Caged Fire Theme,” “Giant’s Eyes,” and “Husk” show the PCS flashing open their furnaces, fusing caveman garage drums with thick bass lurches and in-the-red amplifier worship into a hostile, drug-punk wanderlust.

At their worst – and especially evident on the CD version’s three “bonus” tracks – Plastic Crimewave Sound basically behave like a badly uninventive Jesus & Mary Chain (who themselves, whatever their merits, were rarely ones for variety). That is, a basic bass/drums interplay supersaturated with ragged sheets of electric guitar squall. Though it somehow worked wonders on Psychocandy, here the equation is rendered diabetic, bloodless. The dully repetitive pop framework of tunes like “What Goes Up” and “Record Fiend” isn’t redeemed by Krakow’s feedback frenzy, no matter how loose he cuts, and his vocals here – weak nothings mumbled to nobody - don’t help matters. Disappointingly, the record’s early fury becomes almost forgotten in the muddled murk of the latter tracks, where the band’s focus drifts and fades into flailing grunge nonsense.

By Britt Brown

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