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Rocket From the Tombs: Barfly (Fire)

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During the last 30 years, many more music buffs have heard of this proto-punk band—active in Cleveland in 1974-1975 and responsible for spinning members off into Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys—than have actually heard its music. In fact, this album is the band's first full-length studio recording of all-new material.

Although founding member Peter Laughner died in 1977, he was replaced for a 2003 reunion tour by Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. And on this CD, Lloyd sounds as good as ever; melodic and hypnotic, he's the punk-rock Jerry Garcia.

The set starts out with the fierce "I Sell Soul," which promises all the power and bluster of 1970s-era punk rock before veering for a few cuts in an avant-garage direction, not unlike that which singer David Thomas pursued in Pere Ubu and his solo projects. Some of these tunes are fascinating glimpses into urban anxiety, and the delicious backward-sounding guitar on "Butcherhouse 4" is worth the wait.

"Sister Love Train" is a nice collision of punk and Motown, but it sounds better on the next cut, a revision titled "Love Train Express" that dispenses with the horns and speeds up the tempo. "Good Times Never Roll" splits the difference between Iggy and Lou, two of RFTT's early inspirations. "Six and Two" is a midtempo burner, while "Maelstrom" rocks mercilessly—two minutes of no-guilt garage indulgence.

Rocket From the Tombs' new album isn't the rock 'n' roll game changer that, judging from music-geek legend, one might have expected—but neither is it 37 minutes wasted.

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