In the age of on-demand everything, I've got to say that sometimes the Internet can really disappoint, as has been the case with all of my attempted Googlings of the British band Rancid Hell Spawn. My searches have turned up little more than a dreadfully outdated homepage run by the primary band member, some old fanzine reviews that made it to the digital realm, and links to playlist pages from Dominic Trix at KFJC, Daniel DiMaggio at WPRB, and my own radio show as well. But that's pretty much it -- talk about staring into the void and having the void stare right back at you with its finger firmly planted in its own nose. As my man Scott Williams has taught me, if you can't find what you're looking for on the Internet, it's up to you to make it happen -- not just for your own damn satisfaction, but for all the other hamster people out there who are presumably kicking and crying for lack of the same information you've been searching for. That said, this post seeks dually to smear some Spackle into the gaping hole in the Internet where a lengthy Rancid Hell Spawn entry should have already been, and to satisfy what all sources report is a widespread jones for coffee-crazed noise of the highest order.
Admittedly, it's been a long time since I've played the role of the snooty rock critic, but I'm still willing to chuck
around obscure references at the behest of The Good People of the Internet, so in Rancid Hell Spawn's case, let me undoubtedly piss a few of you off by saying they combined the distorted firepower of "Superior Catholic Finger"-era Helios Creed with the sputtering backwash of the modern era's most demented glitchcore gurus such as Dan Deacon, Jason Forrest, or Drop the Lime. Despite the overtly aggro vibe, RHS also managed to bury incredible pop hooks deep within nearly every song in their repertoire. The Chicago band Masters of the Obvious employs a similar tactic nowadays, and like M.O.T.O., a good number of Rancid Hell Spawn's best tracks boasted that same disquieting, child-like atmospheric that's made all the weirder through their lyrical takes on arresting topics such as tapeworms, Bud Dwyer, and pet corpses. All of these details are tantamount to the sort of effect that could previously only be obtained by hooking a malfunctioning video game directly into your cerebral cortex and chugging a few thousand cans of Tab cola.
To call them "fantastic" or "utterly without peer" still sells 'em short. Rancid Hell Spawn was off-the-grid aural insanity. I vividly recall the first time I heard them and sitting bolt upright in my chair with the stereotypical "what the hell is this?" expression most certainly plastered across my twenty-something year old mug. In the ensuing years, I've been fortunate enough to get pretty well acquainted with the band's records, so here's a beginner's primer that's based on as much of the catalog as we are fortunate to have here at WFMU.
Aesthetically, most of Rancid Hell Spawn's records share a similarly cut 'n past, DIY look -- a point which is made all the more relevant when considered alongside the fact that band founder Charlie Chainsaw was also the editor of Chainsaw Fanzine, which began in the midst of the '77 punk boom and carried on well into the mid 1980s. It is alleged that most issues were punched up on a typewriter with a broken 'N' key, thusly necessitating all words featuring that pesky letter to be filled in with pen. Charlie kick started Rancid Hell Spawn in '88 with the Festering Pus 7" (charming, eh?) and followed it with a barrage of great, off-kilter singles and 12"s throughout the 90s, culminating in the Scalpel Party retrospective CD in 2000. Almost all of the releases appear to still be available through Charlie's Wrench Records distribution service, so head over here to help make him the wealthy man he deserves to be. As of six years ago, Charlie was in a band called the Sexual Abominations, but I've never heard them and I have no idea if they're still active. His résumé leads me to think they're probably worth donating one or more organs for, naturally. I'll go digging for it and try to play it on my show some week, but in the meantime, cherish and enjoy this hallowed chunk of noise rock's past.