1995 was a very productive time for San Diego six-piece Rocket From The Crypt. The band released their major label album ‘Scream, Dracula, Scream!’ in the autumn of that year, yet it was preceded by two vinyl-only releases, the six-track ten-inch ‘The State Of The Art Is On Fire’ and the 12-inch ‘Hot Charity’. They also rewarded their fans who adorned their skin with their logo with a single, ‘Tattoo’ – which now fetches hundreds of dollars on eBay – and ‘I Flame You’, a one-sided seven-inch. After absorbing these songs on a near-daily basis for exactly two decades, I’ve given myself a migraine ranking the best 10 songs from this glorious 365-day period.
10. USED (Scream, Dracula, Scream!, 1995) Gleefully dipping into Interscope’s hefty recording budget, the San Diego sextet decamped to the legendary Gold Star studio, the Los Angeles facility where Phil Spector cut his teeth as a producer. As such, this release – produced by Speedo himself – was their most ambitious recording to date. Featuring a string section, xylophones and accordion manned by Speedo Sr, Used is basically Buddy Holly’s Everyday covered in tattoos and kicked arse-first into the swell of a Ramones gig.
9. HUMAN TORCH (The State Of The Art Is On Fire, 1995) This six-track EP was the first recording to feature trumpeter Jason ‘JC 2000’ Crane. His role in the band immediately gave light and shade texture to Paul ‘Apollo 9’ O’Beirne saxophone blasts. Human Torch is an agitated three-minute swirl of hardcore soul, but the jury is out on whether the titular hero is the original Torch Jim Hammond or Fantastic Four founding member Johnny Storm. Either way, Speedo thinks he’s “fucking lame”.
8. RATSIZE (The State Of The Art Is On Fire, 1995) Produced by Sympathy For The Record Industry founder Long Gone John, the densely-layered Ratsize hints at the scope and depth which the band would explore fully on Scream, Dracula, Scream! which would follow that year.
7. GUILT FREE (Hot Charity, 1995) Taken from the band’s flawless Hot Charity album – self-released on vinyl under the fictitious Perfect Sound label as part of their agreement with Interscope – Guilt Free sees their songwriting kick up several gears and realise their horn section’s full potential. Stirring stuff.
6. LORNA DOOM (Hot Charity, 1995) This track – named after the Germs’ bassist – opens with with Speedo singing ‘The kids won’t carry your coffin, that’s alright and that’s okay, they don’t care what you look like, who you see, what you say’ over handclaps, shortly before his and Andy ‘ND’ Stamets’ guitars come crashing in and dictate the pace of this 2:20 second white hot punk blast.
5. A+ IN ARSON CLASS (The State Of The Art Is On Fire, 1995) This is Rocket From The Crypt at their meanest and it clocks in at under two minutes. As Speedo spits ‘I burned a house down and got a grade for it… I apply some hot charity’, you get the sense that this San Diego pupil takes his studies very seriously indeed.
4. MIDDLE/BORN IN ‘69 (Scream, Dracula, Scream!, 1995) While these are two tracks, one cannot live without the other. On one of the band’s first All Systems Go collection, Speedo’s liner notes reveal he once owned a cassette which had a recording of Dirk Turpin yelper Adam Ant on one side, with Hermosa Beach punks Black Flag on the other side. This dual influence is keenly felt on Middle, the album’s opener. All frantic drumming, call-and-response chanting and a impenetrable wall of guitars frame this one-minute intro, before making way for the album’s irresistible single, which crashes around like Motown on cheap speed.
3. PUSHED (Hot Charity, 1995) An instrumental, save for Speedo’s exasperated ‘I’m bein’ pushed’ and a flurry of cheek pops, the opening track to Hot Charity is one hell of a slow burner. ND’s understated guitars smoulder and crackle before it becomes engulfed in a righteous tsunami of brass and snare.
2. I FLAME YOU_ _(1995) A second release on their Perfect Sound label – on tasty etched seven-inch vinyl, Discogs lurkers – this opens in a rattling fashion not dissimilar to Born In ‘69. I Flame You is more dissonant and murky than most tracks from this period and is topped off with a mind-melting solo.
1. ON A ROPE (Scream, Dracula, Scream!, 1995) It’s that crunching riff that propelled six greasers from San Diego onto British TV shows and made them stars in the mid-90s. Their third single from Scream, Dracula, Scream! reached Number 12 in the UK charts and earned them appearances on Top Of The Pops and Chris Evans’ knockabout teatime hangout TFI Friday. Once heard, never forgotten – in the best possible way.