notekillers: pennsylvania experimental noise

Just over a year ago now, Mike from Art Decade put together a spectacular post on Philadelphia group, Notekillers, about whom I was – equally spectacularly – ignorant. The experience, on hearing their 1978 debut single for the very first time, was fairly momentous. Hairs did indeed stiffen on the back of my neck. Not only did their unique sound stand on equal footing with experimental punks, Pere Ubu and Television – in particular their 1975 Ork 45, \”Little Johnny Jewel\” – but the influence on later bands like Kim Deal\’s Breeders and Steve Malkmus\’s Pavement was immediately apparent.

Of particular interest, too, was the discovery that the peculiar instrumental sound of Notekillers did not originate in NYC, but – in common with outsiders like Ubu and the Stooges before them – germinated and blossomed among blue collar industrial \’wastelands\’ operating on the margins of American society as peddled to the rest of the world on the back of favoured media presentation.

industrial highway PA 291.

A genuine candidate for \”the one that got away\”.

Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth singled out Notekillers \’78 45 on its tiny indepedendent imprint as being one of the defining releases of the period in a Mojo magazine interview in 2000/01 and David First – original guitarist with the group and primary song writer, now residing in Greenpoint, Brooklyn having relocated there in 1984 – happened on the published article and decided to make contact. This led to Moore being drafted in to the frame as executive producer on a Notekillers – formed in 1976 – retrospective CD released on Moore\’s Ecstatic Peace label the following year, featuring original songs culled from \”2-track reels, dusty cassettes and an actual 8-track\”.

Thurston Moore:

\”I first picked up the Notekiller’s 7” \’The Zipper\’ b/w \’Clock Wise\’ in 1978 at 99 Records on Macdougal Street. I bought it because they were the opening band for Glen Branca at some gig at Hurrah’s (which I missed). Plus the band name was pretty killer. the single blew my mind – total no wave speed psychosis with some outer region chops going on. All instrumental and wicked hot. Never got a chance to see them and sometime around 2000 I was asked to make a theoretical mixtape for Mojo magazine and included this jammer in there. Lo and behold David First, a member of the long lost troupe and now an accomplished practitioner amongst the downtown NYC experimental crew, emailed me somewhat stunned that anyone would remember even know about the notekillers at all, something he relegated to the past but which always held a strong note in his heart. So it was decided to compile a Notekillers CD with the aforementioned 7”, an unreleased test-pressing only 7”, live tracks and demos. An amazing CD of a band so on top of their game as far as ripping guitar and odd-school time signatures. So ahead of it’s time that Notekillers have since reformed and killing it once more.\”

Adding to the general excitement, David First dropped in to comment on Mike\’s original post and very generously filled in some blanks for the record, providing links offering a gratefully received update on the reformed Notekiller\’s current activities.

If you get the opportunity, be sure to go and see Notekillers live. Just leave a comment to let me know how good they were.

The b-side remains for me the killer track.

NOTEKILLERS: THE ZIPPER from \”The Zipper b/w Clock Wise\” 45 (No Label) 1978 (US)

NOTEKILLERS: CLOCK WISE from \”The Zipper b/w Clock Wise\” 45 (No Label) 1978 (US)


BUY NOTEKILLERS 1977-81 CD (Surefire Distribution)


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