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NYC 1980 by Hi-Sheriffs Of Blue
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8/10 Mike 08 August 2014

New York in 1980 was an interesting place to be, with the city's vibrant punk and minimalist scenes congealing into the fertile and visceral no wave movement. One of the many half-forgotten bands to spring from the movement was Hi Sheriffs of Blue. This quartet were formed when Mark and George from Boston's The Girls moved to New York.

They formed the Hi Sheriffs of Blues as a deconstructed tribute to blown speaker blues mavericks like Pat Hare and Elmore James, rendered as clanging, clanking and primitive jams. The 11-minute opener here, 'Gossip Crowd, Losers Line, Sweet Talk, My Big Vacation, Hate' mixes strained Alan Vega-meets-Jon Spencer proclamations, crunchy and awkward riffing and wild squeaking brass, sometimes descending into DNA-ish otherworldly meanderings ("they were like DNA obliterating the blues...and one of the cool things was that they looked even nerdier than DNA", enthuses the accompanying booklet).

After the mammoth opener, the first side closes with a grotesquified Elmore James cover and side B has five shorter songs, with opener 'Big Duke' being a particularly accessible stripped back r'n'b choogle, a theme on which 'Blue Door, Black Door' and 'White Street Shuffle' extend with gleefully atonal riffing and booty-shaking rhythms. Things then descend into fractured free jazzing on 'Where Were You When The Lights Went Out?' before the collection closes with another warped blues cover. It's interesting to hear blues and r'n'b referenced so overtly on a no wave record, and these rough around the edges recordings still sound vigorous and unique.


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