Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Pentagram – First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection) (Relapse)
Relapse unearthed and compiled this collection of doom/punk bong rattlers from the legendary Pentagram, a Virginia outfit who recorded sporadically from 1971 to 1976 (and who continue today in revived form). Julian Cope, in turn, made it his album of the month for March. Good on him, for this is a righteous band, a cauldron of Sabbath and Stooges, or Kiss sans the bubblegum.

Their tunes are short with blunt power chords and vocals sung to the riff just like Sabbath or maybe Tull, whom “Walk in the Blue Light” brings to mind. The unassuming nature of the songs is their most outstanding quality, as if the riffs just sprang fully formed from the guitarist’s hands and spontaneously morphed into songs with no worry or elaboration. Pentagram sounds committed to these songs, giving them that intangible something that goes beyond the actual chords and rhythms and words.

Like any heavy 70s band worth its salt, there is some hippie Christian moralizing (“Review Your Choices”) and two songs with “Lady” in the title (the mighty fine pairing of “Starlady” and “Lazylady”). The collection ends with a fairly lo-fi rehearsal room recording of “Last Days Here” a dirge worthy of the Stooges and the Velvets.

I’ve always maintained that bands in the 70s had it easy, with major labels snapping up anything that had hip, if not hit, potential. I mean, how else do you explain Gentle Giant on Capitol or Magma on A&M? The fact that Pentagram never got a shot at the big time, though, tells me that the business has always been cutthroat and unjust.

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