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Negative Capability...Check It Out!

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Album Review

Holy cow! L.A.'s seminal trio, the Urinals, only released 11 songs in their tenure from 1977-1980 (before changing their name to the less restricting 100 Flowers and becoming one of the most respected underground post-punk-pop acts in the U.S.), ten on their three 7" singles and one more on a 7" compilation, all on their own Happy Squid label (they were about the only L.A. band to do that back then). This overdue retrospective somehow triples their output, to 31 songs! Want to hear America's Wire (before Mission of Burma bettered them), only twice as primitive if that's possible, with one quarter the sound quality? Even when they are covering the Soft Machine's "Why Are We Sleeping?," they sound like a three-step primer on minimalism, in scratchy, fast, burping, nutso punk with clipped vocals. You can see why the Minutemen covered "Ack Ack Ack Ack" later, but it's the real solid, melodic stuff such as the Last-inspired harmonies of the great A-sides "Black Hole" and "Sex," and "Scholastic Aptitude," and the instrumental "Surfing With the Shah" (which foreshadows the coming of 100 Flowers and later offshoot Trotsky Icepick) that makes so many Angelinos remember this goofy but great trio so fondly. The less poppy-melodic stuff is probably too primal and underplayed for most, but Negative Capability has an unrelenting, authoritative intelligence and sense of humor. Do what the second half of the title commands!


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s

Los Angeles punks the Urinals formed in a UCLA dormitory in 1978. The group's original five-piece lineup consisted of vocalist Delia Frankel, guitarist Steve Willard, bassist John Talley-Jones, organist Kjehl Johansen, and drummer Kevin Barrett, but after making their public debut at a campus talent show, Frankel and Willard exited over creative differences. Johansen switched to guitar, and the remaining trio soldiered on, teaching themselves a sufficient number of rudimentary notes and chords to...
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Negative Capability...Check It Out!, Urinals
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