Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., April 9, 2004
ST 37The Insect Hospital (Black Widow)
ST 37The Secret Society (Blue Circle)
A busy winter of elvish manufacturing brings us multiple releases from Austin space-rock deities ST 37, who age like a mystical ancient mead. The Insect Hospital is a brand-new hybrid of studio work and a live recording of the band's original score to Fritz Lang's silent sci-fi masterpiece Metropolis, from a 1998 performance at the Alamo Drafthouse. The other principal release is a reissue of The Secret Society, a 1999 limited edition, vinyl-only album. Recorded 1995-97, Secret Society underscores the critical differences between today's ST 37 and the band of yore. Informed by the corn-fed ramblings of Carlton Crutcher, then the band's primary vocalist and keyboardist, ST 37 fell in line with the Texas weirdo-rock tradition of the Butthole Surfers, Ed Hall, and Roky Erickson. With the exception of opener "Translunar Injection" and the kickin', Scott Telles-fronted title track, Secret Society is a detour into a podunk netherworld, ensconced within Carlton Crutcher's layered keyboards and brother Joel Crutcher's madly reverberated licks. Insect Hospital, a long-delayed release on Italian label Black Widow, chronicles ST 37's transformation into a more succinctly rocking concern dominated by Telles' sinewy basslines, and occasionally, his powerful falsetto. In 13 minutes, opener "Solaris" achieves the power, intrigue, and atmosphere only spottily found on Secret Society, as droning keyboards yield an upwelling of riffage and sonic effluvia. The album's title track is a hilarious tale about Erickson as told by the legend's ex-drummer and current ST stickman Dave Cameron. That fittingly gives way to a franticly rockin' rendition of Roky's "Cold Night for Alligators." The album's meat, however, is the 40-plus-minute Metropolis score, a crisp recording that, along with transcendent moments of alien atmospherics, is more visceral and ass-kicking than any film score has a right to be. And that album cover, lord almighty!
(The Insect Hospital)
(The Secret Society)
Oops! The following correction ran in our April 23, 2004 issue: In the April 9 issue of the Chronicle, Michael Chamy stated in his review of The Secret Society by ST 37 ["Texas Platters," Music] that Scott Telles provided lead vocals on the album's title track. In fact, Carlton Crutcher provided those vocals. The Chronicle regrets the error.