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The Notekillers - The Notekillers

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Artist: The Notekillers

Album: The Notekillers

Label: Ecstatic Peace!

Review date: Nov. 4, 2004

To attempt to make a list of every musician who’s been name-checked by Thurston Moore and reaped some positive benefits would be virtually impossible. The man loves music, and always seems happy to share. David First, now renowned as a microtonal and avant-garde composer, became one of the latest beneficiaries of Moore’s unintentional PR when First’s first band, The Notekillers, was included on a fantasy mix-tape made by Moore. Soon enough, First was in contact with Moore, and a Notekillers CD was a reality. Thurston has said that there’d be no Sonic Youth without the Notekillers, a statement that most likely includes some after-the-fact exaggeration, but it’s not hard to discern the influence this Philadelphian quartet had on a fledgling Sonic Youth.

The Notekillers’ instrumentals won’t seem stunningly advanced to the modern listener; it’s a common issue with an “undiscovered” band that by the time their music is being heard, any novelty in their sound is often perceived as much more commonplace than it originally was. One of the band’s goals was to make music that touched upon everything that had come before it, a lofty aim indeed. To integrate punk rock, free jazz, ethnic music and minimalism into one band seems impossible, and it might be; the Notekillers didn’t quite do it. There’s no shame in trying, though, and there’s no doubt that the Notekillers’ music was turning heads anyway back in 1977. There’s a freneticism in their music akin to some of their New York neighbors to the north, though the Notekillers’ nervous energy is decidedly more aggressive, on the whole, than that of the Talking Heads or the Feelies. The songs are exercises in stamina, and though the visceral edge of the music is often lost in the rather flat production, there’s still evidence of how powerful the Notekillers may have been in their day. Much of this music relies on a sense of imminent disorder, and though streamlined rock instrumentals are the norm here, a close listener can discern a chaotic underpinning to much of the music, a sense of how pummeling the material could have been live. Even the most hi-fi of the disc’s 15 tracks are lacking the punchy production that the music deserves, but with an archival release such as this one, the proverbial beggars, of course, can’t be choosers.

Though they were largely forgotten (until now), the Notekillers may yet find a niche in the annals of underground rock. This disc is an imperfect artifact, perhaps, but any archaeologist would agree that often, in cases such as this, it’s the best one could realistically expect. The rebirth made possible by Ecstatic Peace! has carried over to the live stage: the Notekillers have two live dates in New York (Nov. 7 at Tonic & Nov. 11 at The Hook), and, perhaps, an even larger Lazarus act in the making. Like the ghosts who haunt the living due to a past misdeed or injustice, the Notekillers are not to be forgotten, and this CD serves as a reminder of what once was and what still might be.

By Adam Strohm

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