Review Summary: What you got is one dead singer..II
Swaddled in the strychnine drip and Catholic nightmares of late 70’s California, the fiendish swamp punk of L.A.’s The Flesh Eaters was a staple of the West Coast scene, and perhaps the best thing cult poet Chris Desjardins, better known as Chris D, managed in those dark, fruitful years. A Minute to Pray A Second to Die
, the band’s second full-length, was released in 1981 on Ruby Records, a DIY imprint who would put out Misfits’ Walk Among Us
and the Gun Club’s Fire of Love
that same year.
A Minute to Pray
embodies L.A. squalor and sleaze. Campy back-alley noir lyrics, crummy guitars, xylophones, a rusted sax and marimbas all get squashed into a hairy little beast of a record, sitting un-pretty somewhere between hillbilly punk and a Spaghetti Western seen through Bela Lugosi’s eye. The song titles sequence can be swapped for a B-horror marathon at your local arthouse cinema. And unlike the nervy, angular, speed-fuelled rock that their peers in New York City were spindling out in those years, the Flesh Eaters sit neck-deep in Southern Gothic blues, both thematically and musically. There’s a morbid patience to how the pieces of the record play out, the band unafraid to splay out the tunes in all their proto-deathly glory, and only the pouncing “Pray ‘Til You Sweat” clocks in short of three minutes. Song for song, A Minute to Pray
is the soundtrack to the best heroin party you didn’t get invited to. “Satan’s Stomp” bounces around on wobbly legs, John Doe-penned “Cyrano DeBerger’s Back” struts down the street like an oily old pigeon, and the sax-laced “See You in the Boneyard” is so insidiously catchy that its bars will haunt the brain for nights on end.
The lineup that helped Desjardins put A Minute to Pray
together is an addled funhouse of L.A.’s first-wave punk royalty – members of The Cramps, X, Germs, the Gun Club, the Plugz and the Blasters all lend a hand in concocting the record’s saw-toothed voodoo swing. Whatever chemical mess that heady combination of junkie talent promised, A Minute to Pray
managed to remain cohesively sound, all the while sinking into filthy territory. Even the lo-fi aspects of the LP play into its hand, both bass and percussion so echoing and ghostly, it sounds like the band just bashed on empty tree trunks, letting the sharpish sax and kitschy keys amp up the guitar fuzz that forms the songs’ torsos. D’s lyrics, rotating between sex, violence, compunction and narcotics; muster relentless humour in the face of their own lethal bends; a staunch obsession with death that far was more boisterous and far less inwardly debilitating that what future icon post-punkers would bring to the fold. It all comes together in splendid fashion, making A Minute to Pray
a lurking classic of its time, stark back-room anthems for the demented, and a ghoulish ol’ good time.