New York's Bush Tetras had a no wave link, via guitarist Pat Place's association with James Chance, but the band's sound was neither frantic nor disjointed enough to be properly categorized with those bands. They played scrappy post-punk, with fellow Americans Pylon and Konk and Brits Delta 5 and Au Pairs as close contemporaries. If there's any one song the Bush Tetras are known for, it's 1980's "Too Many Creeps" -- the band's most representative song and also the catchiest, made by the kind of jagged rhythms, slicing guitars, and sniping vocals that were used throughout their short lifespan. Perhaps the song wasn't quite insistent or hypnotic enough to become a smash single of the new wave era (released on the small 99 label, its reach was limited), but it could be argued that Romeo Void wouldn't have become popular without knowing about it. That band's "Never Say Never," a genius single in its own right, seemed to take a couple cues from the Bush Tetras; during a 2003 episode of VH1's Bands Reunited series, Romeo Void guitarist Peter Woods matter-of-factly confessed to being inspired by the sound of Place's guitar.
After Place, bassist Laura Kennedy, drummer Dee Pop, and singer Cynthia Sley made their debut with an EP centered around "Too Many Creeps," signed with the U.K.'s Stiff label, and recorded another EP, Rituals, produced by the Clash's Topper Headon. The live cassette Wild Things, which included a cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey," was released by ROIR in 1983. By this stage, the Bush Tetras -- along with Konk, fellow New Yorkers Talking Heads, and Manchester's A Certain Ratio -- went outside the realm of Western music for inspiration. African and Caribbean influences played a significant role in their sound. This same year involved the exits of Kennedy and Pop and an eventual split.
Post-breakup, most of the members went on to short-lived groups. Pop, his Tom Verlaine/John Cale-associate wife Deerfrance, and former 8-Eyed Spy member Michael Paumgardhen formed Floor Kiss; Sley and ex-Voidoid Ivan Julian had the Lovelies; Place helped out spoken word artist Maggie Estep. A while after these less significant projects dissolved, ROIR compiled all of the Bush Tetras' studio recordings and threw in some demos for Better Late Than Never. ROIR being ROIR, it too was a cassette-only release.
The original lineup got back together in 1995. Boom in the Night, another retrospective on the by-then-evolved ROIR, functioned as a CD version of Better Late Than Never, with all but one track from the earlier release included. It came out just before 1996's Beauty Lies, an album of new material that came and went without much notice. It had the bad fortune of predating the rocketing interest in post-punk that took hold during the early 2000s. In 1997, the Bush Tetras recorded the album Happy for Mercury. Before it was released, Mercury was sold, its A&R staff laid off, and the album shelved. ROIR issued the album for the first time in 2012. ~ Andy Kellman