Vol. 1 (Reissue) by Uncle Acid and the DeadbeatsRelease date: October 13, 2017
Label: Rise Above Records
Conjuring up smoky basement rooms, graveyards stalked by sinister vampires and the foggy streets of nighttime Victorian London prowled by Jack the Ripper, the music of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats harks back to the late sixties and early seventies, drenched in fuzzy, heavy, spaced-out riffage. Kitsch, horror-themed lyrics feature lonely oddballs locked in the attic, witches, vampires and a smattering of killers in various guises. Added to this the lo-fi production and guitar licks from the days of proto-metal all go into the cauldron to create a glorious mass of hazy, spiraling psychedelia seen through a pair of purple lenses. Over four albums they have honed their sound, reaching near perfection in 2015’s The Night Creeper, a fabulous and consistent concoction of hooky melody and doomy groove.
Vol. 1 is a reissue of their first album, first released in 2010 to an unsuspecting audience, and which quickly created a cult fanbase. It came out on Friday 13th February 2010, the exact 40-year anniversary of Black Sabbath’s debut LP being released. And now this reissue is out on the only date worthy of the event: Friday 13th October.
The original was released on 30 CD-Rs (remember them?) and sold locally in Cambridge where the band are from. It created a small but fervent fan base for 2011’s Blood Lust. Vol. 1 has been “mastered and mixed” but, I suspect, not re-mastered. What we have here is the original in all its bootleggy glory, warts and all.
For all their homage to the seventies, Uncle Acid don’t just draw on Sabbath. This early release shows a range of influences from the Stooges to the Doors, Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple via The Cramps and Misfits. There’s Hammer horror, psychedelia, New York punk and the post-flower power comedown. Plus a hefty dose of Sabbath doomy groove too.
First track ‘Crystal Spiders’ shows us that in some ways the Deadbeats leapt from the box fully formed. Their essential sound has remained the same over the course of their four albums – perhaps helped by their use of vintage equipment to make their music. It has a very similar feel to later material. There’s a lo-fi sound with a slightly trippy feel to the guitar, and masterful riffing that has a rolling, mesmerising rhythm that is recurrent in so much of their music. Plus there are Kevin Starrs’ slightly weird high-pitched vocals. This combination gives the music of Uncle Acid a unique feel and atmosphere. ‘Witches Garden’ starts with a mournful Sabbath-like riff that is added to by an organ melody. There’s a crackly sound to the production that adds to the vintage feel – nothing from the original’s demo-like quality has been tidied up on this reissue.
The pace changes with third track ‘Dead Eyes of London’, which has an explosive punky riff reminiscent of the Stooges or later horror punks Misfits. The brilliant raspy vocal makes this track, though. There’s a predator about, and he’s singing this song: “Dead Eyes of London – They’re watching you… The foggy streets are silent, The cobbled stones are slick, Blind flash of violence, you must be quick“. Atmosphere is all: the depraved lyrics, the singer’s rasp and the scuzzy riff are just a perfect combination. ‘Lonely and Strange’ features a morose organ riff that would sound like the Doors if they’d lived in a tumbledown haunted house in East Anglia rather than California. The rolling guitar tune draws you in, as ever. This is classic Uncle Acid and could have been on their most recent album rather than the first.
The creepy but catchy ‘Vampire Circus’ gives over its second half to a Deep Purple-style guitar and organ breakdown, a proper seventies rock wigout. This isn’t the only time on the album the musicians get carried away. Never does it feel overdone, more like a jam session where all the stars align and the musical chemistry is perfect. Closer ‘Wild Toys’ features a heavenly 5 minutes of soloing, bringing to mind Randy Rhodes or Ritchie Blackmore in their finest hour.
This reissue gives us a delightful insight into how this unique band started out. It shows that the essence of Uncle Acid has always been the same, that their ability to create truly superlative and emotionally evocative music was there from the outset. I can only hope that this is a prelude to new music from Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. While we wait for their next album this wonderful re-release fills a hole in our lives.