Richard Hell

Reissues

Phases and Stages

Richard Hell

Time (Matador) Richard Hell has been in more junked-out glamster outfits than ex-Austinite Tim Stegall: the Heartbreakers, Voidoids, occasional stints and one-offs with ex-Television, ex-Dolls, ex-et cetera. Matador's overripe 2-CD collection unifies the sticky bits of Hell's career that have clung to the soles (and souls) of the various black boots of lower-echelon vinyl and cassette releases over the years. Particularly cool is the inclusion of the majority of tracks from ROIR's out-of-print mid-Eighties cassette-only release. Granted, CBGB hitmakers like "Love Comes in Spurts" and "I'm Your Man" don't sound all that much better than they did when they were blasting out of a tinny boombox in Mykel Board's guttersnipe apartment, but then anyone buying this in hopes of improving on Hell's standard 4-8 tracking semi-lucid sound quality is deluding themselves. Raw (as in Power) is the key word here, followed at close heel by Hell's Rimbaud-meets-opiates lyricism. Disc two is made up of live sets culled from near and far (NYC '78, London '77), and although the audio is at uniformly best described as "really fucking awful," hearing Hell's jaundiced yelp bolt through "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and the unforgettable, unredeemable "Blank Generation" (a song that still manages to curdle spinal fluid after almost 30 years) are alone worth the price of admission, which to be honest, is best paid in full in shrieking feedback and cacophonous volume -- two assets that Hell carried around with him like other musicians carry picks and strings. This is a history lesson to be sure, but it's also an unexpected tribute to both Hell and his home, New York City's lower east side, the resourceful, ever-throbbing core of the loudest art in the land.

***.5

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