15 essential Amphetamine Reptile releases
This week, Grumpy's Downtown hosts a celebration of one of Minneapolis's most influential labels, Amphetamine Reptile. Bash 13 features a wealth of artists associated with the label over the years, including Mudhoney and the Melvins (who play an album release show on Friday, as well). This week's City Pages cover story goes in-depth into the label's beginnings, and includes plenty of commentary from Mudhoney's Mark Arm, Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne, and AmRep founder Tom Hazelmyer.
It was fitting that we gather some of the best AmRep has had to offer from the past 27 years. While most of these releases are long out of print, especially the limited-edition 7-inches and small-batch LPs, they all helped establish AmRep as a viable, reputable record label that wasn't afraid to take risks. The raucous, untamed music AmRep consistently released challenged listeners to expand their tastes, while introducing fans to many bands that would eventually make their distinctive mark on the national music scene. Here are 15 essential releases from the back catalog, and please note that some of these covers are NSFW.
• The Thrown Ups -- Felch 7-inch (1987)
The facetious musical attitudes and approach of both the Thrown Ups and Amphetamine Reptile Records as a whole is easily summed up by both the title and album art featured on Mark Arm and Steve Turner's debut AmRep single. This 7-inch was the first non-Halo of Flies release from AmRep, and helped launch the label as more than just a vanity project of Tom and HoF, as well as establish a creative partnership with Mark and Steve that continues to this day.
• Dope-Guns-'N-Fucking in the Streets Vol. 1-11 (1988-97):
These legendary compilations started out as double 7-inches featuring emerging new bands on the label, but eventually grew to include Mudhoney's first official release, as well as Helmet, Melvins, Jesus Lizard, Superchunk, Rocket From the Crypt, and many more. If you ever find any of these available on vinyl or CD, snatch them up quick -- you won't be disappointed.
• Boss Hog -- Drinkin', Letchin', & Lyin' EP (1989)
While the decidedly NSFW cover art gets a lot of the attention (and deservedly so), the songs on this EP from the ex-Pussy Galore bandmates rocks with the best of them. Jon Spencer and his future wife Christina Martinez (who appears naked on the memorable cover art) formed this raucous outfit out of the ashes of Pussy Galore, and this untamed initial offering from Boss Hog served notice that this wasn't just going to be a meaningless side project, they were going to rock our faces (and clothes) off right from the start.
• Surgery -- Nationwide LP (1990)
Surgery were the type of band who seemingly weren't built to last -- the Hartford, Connecticut quartet's tempestuous, noise-laden songs blazed with an urgency that sadly didn't last long, as frontman Sean McDonnell died just five short years after their full-length debut, Nationwide, was released on AmRep. Despite their all-too-brief career, Surgery still managed to leave a potent, incendiary back catalog in their wake, while clearly making their mark on the music industry of the early '90s as well as influencing countless noise rock bands in the future.
• Helmet -- Strap It On LP (1990)
This debut full-length from the punishing New York math-metal band followed AmRep's earlier release of their blistering initial single, "Born Annoying." Strap It On helped bring the musical splendor of AmRep to the attention of the rest of the country, a reputation that was only strengthened when the band broke into the mainstream with their vaunted follow-up, Meantime, which AmRep originally released on vinyl.