I read it once on a blog entry, and it’s a statement I couldn’t help but find too apt—all of the success The Hives have had rightfully belongs to Rocket From The Crypt. Rocket, the finest band to emerge from my home of San Diego, Calif. was also one of the finest band’s to have ever graced this fair planet. Rocket From The Crypt was rock `n’ roll. From the rotating, matching stage apparel, to their names (Apollo 9, Speedo, Petey X), to their policy on letting fans with Rocket tattoos into their shows for free (which they had to stop doing eventually because there were so many tatted fans), to their music, which was raw, intense and full of energy. No band since has captured their fun and ferocious style, save for any of John Reis’ other projects (and there have been many, all of them kickass) and maybe King Khan & The Shrines, but that’s a different story.
While I, personally, missed out on seeing Drive Like Jehu and the Hot Snakes live, I was lucky enough to have seen Rocket, and it’s one of my more memorable experiences. Beginning the show with a call to the audience to give one another relaxing neck massages before tearing into material from Group Sounds, Circa: Now! and Scream, Dracula, Scream!, Rocket not only lived up to their recorded material, but surpassed it, the excitement translating well into the audience’s reception. To this day, it’s the only show I’ve been to, in which an excited lady in the crowd flashed her breasts. Granted, the band wasn’t there at the time and she seemed pretty drunk, but a chaotic, uninhibited, wild spirit is what Rocket’s shows were all about.
On Halloween of 2005, however, Rocket committed showbiz Seppuku, spilling their guts out before a Westin Hotel Ballroom crowd for one last night of drinks, destruction and rock `n’ roll. As one final gift to fans, Rocket immortalized that evening with a final recorded offering, a live set titled, aptly, R.I.P. After a grand introduction by fellow Southern California icon El Vez, the band takes the stage and launches forward with a relentless rock `n’ roll assault. Produced and recorded with the sort of clarity that sometimes eludes similar live recordings, R.I.P. not only offers a great sounding record, but one that nicely captures the intensity and hedonism of the real thing.
Among the 19 songs on R.I.P.‘s tracklist are countless classics throughout the band’s storied career. Often chosen to open the band’s shows, “Middle” is stuck, ahem, in the middle here, while “French Guy” from Paint As a Fragrance has the honor of the opening spot. Various amusing moments occur over the course of the show, from Speedo’s shouting “I fucking hate Florida!” during “Boychucker” or telling the audience not to throw their shit on stage after getting pelted with a toy gun (so the liner notes explain). I bring up “Middle” in particular, however, because it begins the most exciting third of the performance, not surprisingly the final third. From there the band unleashes the raw furor of “Born In ’69,” which is a bit sloppy, admittedly, but still maintains its unhinged awesomeness. A pair of Group Sounds gems, “Straight American Slave” and “Carne Voodoo,” come next, which RFTC executes a bit more smoothly and fiercely, particularly the latter, in which JC2000 and Apollo 9’s horns take center stage.
“Sturdy Wrists” was my personal introduction to the band, and sounds amazing here, the vocal harmonization revealing the band’s own soulful stylization while also showing their punk roots. While “Come See, Come Saw” closes the evening, the best part of the show, and the best song of their career, is “Ditch Digger,” an epic waltz, super catchy, classic and with the most witty lines about leprosy you’ll ever hear. I regret not seeing this show, particularly because I’m always handed a surprising dearth of opportunities for Halloween plans each year. But in honor of this fantastic band, I will be playing this album on the way to some costume-clad debauchery next Oct. 31.
Black Lips – Los Valientes del Mundo Nuevo
Murder City Devils – R.I.P.
Hot Snakes – Thunder Down Under
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.