It's no stretch at all to think of BDR Records as St. Louis' very own Numero Group. That Chicago-based imprint quickly became the king of archival reissues, resurrecting long-forgotten and barely remembered sides from music scenes in Cleveland, Wichita and, on the Eccentric Soul: The Young Disciples release, East St. Louis. Helmed by Jason Rerun and Matt Harnish, BDR Records is set on releasing '70s and '80s pop, punk and new-wave nuggets for fresh ears. In the past few years, the label has re-pressed work by the Welders, Philosophic Collage and the Test Patterns compilation (reviewed in this space). Couple these releases with the recent Heebie Jeebies and Painkillers reissues, and you start to get a clearer picture of a St. Louis scene that barely flirted with national exposure but that left behind a worthy body of work.
All of which makes this mondo release of Max Load's output that much more curious: The Belleville, Illinois-based band only formally released one seven-inch record in 1979, which was sharp enough to catch the ears of Bomp! legend Greg Shaw. The other 22 tracks come from studio demos recorded between 1980 and 1983. The tracks from that 45, "X-Rod" and "Magazine Sex," split the difference between the Sex Pistols (quick and snide) and later Joy Division (gloomy, synth-aided atmosphere). Elsewhere, the organ chords give "You're a Blur" a Nuggets-y garage-rock vibe amid some serious post-punk and new wave, and that hazy, druggy undercurrent gets amplified on "Things Are Different," which owes a debt to both the Doors and the Modern Lovers. Max Load's fascination with electronic music and synthesizer technology comes on strong on "Zero Zone," which was recorded at Washington University's synthesizer lab in 1981 (please tell me that still exists, Wash. U.). These more experimental excursions lend depth to a band that seemed, at first blush, to be capably aping the style and sound of UK punk and little else.
Lead singer and guitarist Terry Jones gives insight in a discursive but honest liner note essay, which tells of mind-altering experimentation, a short stay in a mental hospital and falling under the sway of punk rock and new-wave music. Jones is still making music under the moniker 3-D Monster, and recently BDR Records had current bands give a live airing to songs from Max Load and other bands from the reissue catalog. It's a pretty smart way of keeping these songs alive, and when you get hear the scope of this vinyl + CD + DVD package, that's not a bad legacy for a band with one 45 to its credit.
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