Vinyl Vlog 264

Vinyl Vlog 264

Monday, 02 October 2017

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Full Circle split LP by Round Eye and Libyan Hit Squad.

After I discovered Round Eye with the help of the band’s self-titled LP a couple of years ago, I was hooked. Like a fan of any band, I began singing the group’s praises to anyone who would listen; I talked about the band, I wrote about them and I listened to that first album constantly. I loved it – I still do. The catch is that, when one gets hooked on anything like I was on Round Eye, it doesn’t take long to want more. Within the context of music, the instinct is to go out and attempt to track down the greatest possible number of other releases featuring music by the group in question but, being that Round Eye was the group’s debut full-length album, finding more music didn’t look as though it would be easy. In cases like this, the common trend is to hear stories about other releases by the band who’s music you’re searching for and how they came about (but not actually finding a whole lot of actual music), and discovering Round Eye’s back catalogue held true to that tradition. I learned about a split release which featured Round Eye and another band called Libyan Hit Squad, and learned to my excitement that singer Craig “Chachy” Englund was the frontman for both groups. I wanted to hear and learn more and, happily, Chachy was not only happy to send me a copy of the split, but give me some of the background for it too. The story of Full Circle – Round Eye’s split LP with Libyan Hit Squad – goes about like this:

“To be honest, the split release was sort of a way of bridging between the two bands,” explains Chachy of the reasoning behind Full Circle. “Libyan Hit Squad had ended and I had moved to China for work – I was not planning on returning to music. After a year and a half though, I slowly crept band into the business with Round Eye and decided to fill out the rest of what became Round Eye’s side of the album; when I moved to China I had everything on Side A, [Black Flag guitarist] Greg Ginn’s material [who contributed lead guitar to the album’s title track –ed] and “Carne Seca” and “Kenting” [which both appear on Round Eye’s side of the split –ed] all finished and written, it was just a matter of putting together the rest. In the end, the idea was to release it as both closure for LHS and a fresh start for Round Eye.”

They may have already been on their way out but, on the A-side of this split, Libyan Hit Squad were clearly onto something great, and listening proves to make that fact undeniable. From the moment “Brown Asshole” skids through to open the proceedings, the frenzy is clearly in effect; raging out like the illegitimate progeny of Guantanamo School Of Medicine and Butthole Surfers, guitarists Chad Puntel and Dorian Pedraja nearly trip over themselves as they try to break a couple of land speed records for tempo and dump as much raw energy as possible into the song’s fifty-three-second running while drummer Shawn Starkey rapid fires his way through unrelentingly. To just call the sound that those three players make “staccato” or “infectious” doesn’t even approach doing it a service – it’s flat out blistering – but the band’s real ace in the hole is Chachy, on both bass and vocals. Here, the singer seems to nearly come to the point of speaking in tongues as he sets the tempo and energy of the track at a point which makes hardcore punk seem sluggish, but the way that voice interacts with the big, fuzzy tone of the singer’s bass performance is truly a thing of beauty. Here, Chachy’s voice just bounces constantly off the tone of that bass as a fly does off a window on a sunny day, but it doesn’t seem at all random; there is definitely a plan in place about this performance and, after they’ve been slapped around by it even once, listeners will find themselves completely sucked into the band’s energy. Simply said, they won’t even think about lifting the needle after only one song here.

…And, as the side continues, will just keep finding more reasons to keep going with it. While there is no genuine lull anywhere in this running, there are particular standouts which really grab and hold listeners tightly; “Rubber Shoes,” for example, crosses a really cartoony image with some genuinely terrifying and torrid sonics which absolutely crush anything which gets too close. Conversely, the airier and more angular title track makes the most of a more skate-punk centered dynamic and captures the hard-to-attain “fantastic punk instrumental” mantle while “Faulty Bridge” is able to howl and get listeners locked into a feeding frenzy before “Lift Your Knees” elects to jump in every sonic direction it can and finalizing as a punk rock epic when it closes the A-side out after eight minutes. Overall, Libyan Hit Squad does a great job of introducing themselves as well as laying out some great bait with which listeners will happily follow along on Full Circle‘s A-side. Each of the songs offers up a tight and randy slice of inimitable weirdness which certainly owes a debt to skate punk silliness as well as a brave, outsider desire to not follow any particular punk community cliches,and leaves listeners with a taste for more by the end. That taste would ultimately go unfulfilled, of course, but repeated listens can still hold listeners engaged too.

On the flipside of Full Circle, it’s obvious that there are sonic similarities between Libyan Hit Squad and Round Eye beyond the fact that Chachy Englund played in both bands – in fact, while both groups are more than a little unhinged, this B-side really puts the ‘freak’ in Freak Punk by only barely keeping themselves on the proverbial rails through each one of the side’s five cuts. Beginning with the self-titled intro track, Round Eye mixes a little surf-rock mania with a thoroughly weirdand animated (in the sense of Looney Toons) horn section along with a Robert Quine-inspired guitar figure to make those of the wrong mind nervous and those of the right one smile at the knowledge that something wicked will this way be coming, all without a word. The implied lunacy is completely arresting and, after the introduction lets out, “Kenting” grumbles to life with distant, unintelligible vocals abounding and horns buzzing like flies to great effect – even if the overall production of the song takes away from the presentation a bit (Round Eye would eventually get much better at making unintelligable vocal performances work for them with the help of better, higher and cleaner production values than “Keating” features). After that, those who already familiar with Round Eye thanks to their self-titled album and/or Monster Vision will be floored by “I’m So Young” due to the fact that it marks the only occasion to date that Round Eye has ever attempted a ballad (complete with doo-wop-esque backing vocals) before being mauled by the mostly in-tune majesty of “Carn Seca!” and then sort of previewing the motormouth brilliance of “Commie Blues” (whether they knew it or not) with the side-ender, “Got Her Runnin’.” There, the band expertly leaves a hook exposed as they just sort of let the song blurt out complete with warts and rough edges before collapsing and leaving the needle to lift and let listeners clean up the band’s mess on their own. And they will dutifully clean it up too – the way it ends, “Got Her Runnin’” leaves the possibilities wide open for Round Eye to come back and do the same thing again on another release after this one, or spontaneously re-invent themselves and allow it to make just as much sense. Either way, those who make it through the Round Eye side of Full Circle will be left satisfied that, no, Round Eye was not any kind of fluke, it was part of an ongoing progression which actually began here. And hearing this beginning is worthwhile; it will (at least temporarily) assuage the appetites of those fans who simply cannot get enough Round Eye as well as providing some added food for though with the Libyan Hit Squad side too. [Bill Adams]


Further Reading:
Ground Control Magazine – Vinyl Vlog 083
In From Out Of Nowhere – Round Eye Emerges[Feature Article]
Ground Control Magazine – Round Eye – Monster Vision – [CD Review]

It is still possible to buy Full Circle digitally, directly from the band. Get it here.

Comments are closed.