Boomkat Product Review:
Careening 1981 electro punk prototypes with a point to make, hailing the wordy rants of androgynous bandleader Phranc over buzzing, distorted synths and a mix of machine and man-hit drums sure to find favour with fans of Factrix, Crass, The Screamers, Psychic TV, or anyone put off by the steep 2nd hand price
“Nervous Gender’s legendary synthpunk LP Music From Hell burbles up from infernal depths to resurface on Dark Entries! Confrontational, unhinged, and unabashedly queer, Music from Hell is an unholy grail for fans of the strangest underbellies of post-punk, minimal synth, and early industrial music, and is presented here newly remastered and on expanded double LP.
Nervous Gender (de)formed in LA in 1978 at the hands of Phranc, Gerardo Velaquez, Edward Stapleton, and Michael Ochoa. Phranc, the androgynous embodiment of the band’s name, left in 1980. Following her departure, a wide cast of LA freaks would find themselves drawn into the band’s orbit, including Alice Bag of the Bags, Paul Roessler of the Screamers, the Germs’ Don Bolles, and an 8-year old drummer named Sven Pfeiffer. In 1980, Nervous Gender appeared on the seminal Live at Target compilation alongside Factrix, uns, and Flipper. With the band’s notoriety cemented, Music from Hell followed in 1981 on Subterranean Records (as no LA label would touch this material).
Side A, dubbed “Martyr Complex”, presents a more punk-forward sound with live drum salvos and slabs of aggressive synth. These twitchy, unsettling shockers ooze with the kind of snotty misanthropy that will endear them to fans of the Screamers or Crass. Side B, known as “Beelzebub Youth”, is a live performance the band labeled “an electronic bruto-canto dissertation on the banality of spiritual transcendence.” Mutant melodies cede way to synthesized clangs, whirs, bleeps, manipulated tapes, and howls of despair.
In addition to all the material from the original LP, we’re treated to a full disc of the band’s demos, the material from the Live at Target compilation, and early live recordings. Included are unrecognizable covers of Carly Simon and Lou Reed, and the Sex Pistols that are so despairingly skewed they fall into the void.
This reissue of Music From Hell includes a 36 page lyric booklet, foldout poster, and gatefold sleeve with photos, flyers, and news-clippings designed by Eloise Leigh. Tackling taboo issues like sexual kinks, mental illness, drug use, and childhood molestation, Music From Hell is still surprising – even shocking – over 40 years after the album’s release. Nervous Gender stand as one of the most genuinely anti-establishment outfits in underground music, a colossal fuck you to social norms from religious strictures to gender essentialism.”