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The Fix - At the Speed of Twisted Thought…

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Artist: The Fix

Album: At the Speed of Twisted Thought…

Label: Touch and Go

Review date: Oct. 17, 2006

Seven thousand of us just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Touch & Go Records out in a parking lot in Chicago, but perhaps the real reason to celebrate is that Corey Rusk is finally starting to unearth the rarities within his label’s storied catalogue. Now is as good a time as ever, but with the coming resurgence of heavy/fast/loud chaos/music as the dominant countercultural motif for ’06 and most of ’07 (you heard it here first – get on the right side of this fence before bandwagoneering assholes ruin it once again), perhaps reissues like the Blight discography from earlier this year, and now the complete recorded works of The Fix, might be imbued with more meaning than before. And why not? Here’s a label that put out the first Die Kreuzen album as well as CocoRosie. Is work like the Fix discog a reaction to the label itself?

I’m not going to step in that puddle, and neither should T&G (or, for that matter, neither should you). All you really need to know is that at one time, there was a new music called hardcore which laid into the underground with the force of a meteor striking the Earth, and in that, four guys (vocalist Steve Miller, guitarist Craig Calvert, bassist Mike Achtenberg, and drummer Jeff Wellman) ensured that the Fix was in, grinding their gears in East Lansing, Michigan, to little acclaim, and firing off two missives at the very start of hardcore’s first wave, from their starts in 1980 to their disbanding on New Year’s Day, 1982, after which Miller and Achtenberg joined Tesco Vee in Blight, then faded from view. In those 18 months or so, they broke ground that would allow many bands following in their filthy, smogged wake to book their own tours, conduct interviews within the nascent scene publications (Rusk’s own Touch & Go fanzine being one of them), live on the fringes, then get out while the getting was good.

Originals of the band’s two singles (“Vengenace” b/w “In This Town,” and the four-song Jan’s Room EP, both released in 1981) sell for obscene dollar amounts, have been bootlegged numerous times by scumbags (the latest containing a viral screed by the Necros’ Barry Henssler – Rusk’s former bandmate – claiming that the Fix were poseurs who were into glam metal, latching onto hardcore because it was the next big thing), and like most strong records that sold abysmally, have been elevated to grail-like status in the ensuing decades and the pursuit of the past by those who were likely not around to see it unfold. These are blazing, caustic recordings, made by guys clearly as concerned with flaying the outer layers of skin from listeners’ bodies as they were with playing. The songs are arranged with economy and tautness in mind, with tension peaking in “Signals,” at 3:37 their longest cut and the most creepy-crawly selection here. “Signals” boils the group’s essence down: Miller’s vocals break off in a thuggish rasp, less tuneful than threatening; Calvert’s one-channel buzzsaw guitar throwing sparks as well as tough yet melodic riffs; the rhythm section holding it down as accurately as it can for the velocities of play. As the records unfold, you can hear the band tighten its own screws; by the time of Jan’s Room, they had found in SST brother-in-arms Spot a producer who understood what they were going for, giving the band enough headroom to turn up the heat on their studio stance. The package is rounded out with comp tracks and a handful of studio outtakes (including a Spot-produced “Vengeance” that rages harder than the original), plus a dozen or so live recordings from ’80 and ’81 which feature heretofore unavailable songs, plus covers of the Box Tops’ “The Letter” and the Germs’ “Media Blitz.” These are of Land Speed Record quality, but their inclusion is welcome here, as are phenomenal liner notes from Thurston, Byron, Rollins, MacKaye, Tesco Vee, Tim Tonooka, and vocalist Miller, all of which place this puzzling and myopic band in its rightful throne.

Unconcerned with much above survival, the Fix come from an era where only the obsessives cared, friends built networks of support, and punk finally made good on its original limey promises. Had its support been stronger, this music could have destroyed the suburbs from the inside out, its fans acting as the cancer that eats away at the keeping up of appearances, organized religion and good taste. You would have gone to school in a loincloth, learned how to snap a deer’s neck and use all of your kill, and waged war against your local TCBY. Instead, you’re on a computer, reading about hardcore instead of stoking a fire in a trash barrel. What a difference 25 years makes.

By Doug Mosurock

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