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Hands-On: Comix Zone Music Sampler

Genre: Music Developer: Various Publisher: American Recordings Released: 1996

Comix Zone was meant to be STI’s (Sega Technical Institute for those playing at home) big game. They created a new character, one who not only was a bit different from heroes of the day, but who may have very well represented a large fanbase that played the Genesis in the first place. Sketch Turner was your average struggling comic (or graphic novel) artist, who was taken alive by his own comic creation Mortus and forced to fight his way out of his own hand-drawn world. Whether it was the music, the gameplay, the unique playing field, the graphics, or having a rat walk around and do your bidding, the game was unique and had the makings of something truly great. These days, it’s seen as such, but another piece of the puzzle is oddly omitted, despite it being on the box of the game in question (of course, it was cardboard, so most were disposed of quickly). I’m referring to the CD music sampler that was included in the package itself.

American Recordings started off as a spin-off label from Def Jam recordings in 1989, and it was soon able to sign bands like Danzig and The Black Crowes, along with comedian Andrew Dice Clay and rappers Sir Mix-A-Lot and the Ghetto Boys. Even cult favorite Wesley Willis was once one of American’s artists. Today they feature Slayer, Neil Diamond, and a band named System of a Down.

In ’95, a deal between developer and label created one of the best music/gaming combinations of the year. Along with their copy of Comix Zone, gamers were treated with a sampler CD of some of American Recordings various artists (I wish an early System of a Down track could have been on here, just because it would probably be a more sought after CD) This isn’t mentioned much anymore these days. More or less, the CD was probably lost quickly by buyers, or simply disposed of with that crappy cardboard packaging. Today I’m here to give a description of each song to the best of my abilities, mostly because finding information on some of these artists is a bit of a challenge. On we go!

Track List

Danzig : Going Down to Die

To start off honestly here, having first heard the album at age nine, it’s fair to say I had no idea who any of these bands were when I first put the CD in. Scarring me and my family when I first had it blaring in the living room was this little Danzig number. The blues metal feel makes this one of the better songs of the album, and was actually where I really started to appreciate the music a bit more.

Glenn Danzig on vocals really keeps the song from being your generic metal-type. The guitars matching up with the high and lows of Glenn’s voice just create a nice, fluid song that you can’t help but play out to the end (which I admit is hard to do with some of these songs)

Nowadays, another Danzig album has been talked about, but there’s apparently nothing official, as Glenn is leading towards more unfinished projects of his life.

Lordz of Brooklyn : Saturday Night Fever

If anything, this is one of the more underground favorites of the whole CD. A rap song about gangs in Brooklyn was a fresh concept in ’95 (ha, sarcasm is so hard to detect on the Internet), but this song still works out. Using a barely detectable sample from American Woman, the songs picks up quickly and becomes catchy throughout. Using vocals from the assortment of Irish and Italian Americans in the group make the whole song something that’s really worth listening to over and over.

Recently, the group changed its name to just The Lordz and have almost gotten rid of any hip-hop influences, becoming almost all rock driven, with it’s recent third album released last year, The Brooklyn Way.

Mc 900 Ft Jesus: Buried at Sea

Mc 900 Ft Jesus, a classically trained musician turned hip-hop artist and turn-table aficionado, put together this compilation of sounds and musical pieces together to create Buried at Sea, a title that doesn’t really fit the song when you can barely tell what’s going on in the first place. I don’t think there was any real message being made here, just some stuff thrown together. Even with that, however, I like this song, despite there being no real tune to speak of, and that weird distorted trumped noise that keeps playing in the background.

Buried at Sea is almost more of a novelty song, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not necessarily a BAD song, but it’s not something you’ll be playing over and over.

Jesus and Mary Chain: I Hate Rock and Roll

Known for playing ten minute gigs, having constant microphone feedback, and playing with their backs to the crowd, The Jesus and Mary Chain pretty much disrespected any fans who went to a show, even though they didn’t seem like such bad guys all around. If they’d submitted a better song for this CD, they might be a bigger name these days, but for now, we’ve got a song here named I Hate Rock and Roll, which seems to showcase a classic Jesus and Mary Chain pattern: dissonance along with varied guitar riffs thrown in at the player’s discretion, with a few lyrics added for good measure. I haven’t listened to many of their songs, but I’m hoping this isn’t their best. Maybe you need to have a special taste for that exact type of tune.

Love and Rockets: Words of a Fool

This is one of those songs that makes me wonder why it didn’t get more radio play, even if on just alternative stations. Brought to you by the same band with the early ’90s hit So Alive, Love and Rockets could never seem to find the success again that So Alive had, hitting #3 on the U.S. charts. Words of a Fool shows that they were still making good music, although different than their previous, more upbeat hit. The vocals make the song, as the music plays a somewhat depressing tune of mistakes made. Unfortunately, Love and Rockets is no more these days, which is too bad. This is definitely one of my favorites on the sampler.

Lords of Acid: Do What You Want To Do

Simply put, Lords of Acid was one of the many techno-dance club songs in the early ’90s dance revolution, Sit on Acid being their biggest hit. They continue to perform today, with lyrics that more or less have somewhat heavy sexual undertones (well, as heavy as rave music can get I guess). Their band name is a tribute to former porn star Traci Lords.

Do What You Want to Do isn’t necessarily bad, but you can’t help but feel that you’ve heard it hundreds of times before. Pretty much, that’s what seemed to happen to the genre’s mainstream appeal; it all just blends together so much after a while that you just get bored. Even giving it a full review here is hard, when there’s nothing really to distinguish it from other songs of the type.

The Stiffs: Chelsea

What we have here is another dissonance-laden song about a girl, this time named Chelsea. While some songs can get away with this approach, I just never liked this song. It doesn’t work very well. Barely intelligible lyrics and parts that never seems to get anywhere, this is easily one of the worst songs of the CD. It’s not all bad though. I think if it had done a little differently, it could’ve been fine, but it may have lost a part if that was done. What part? I don’t know.

The Stiffs are still around today, though still as obscure as when the CD came out. They’ve probably become one of the more staying bands that American Recordings has had.

Julian Cope: Try, Try, Try

Julian Cope, one of the bigger names of the CD, brings forth another great song, especially on the CD. I’ve actually looked for more of his music and enjoyed it as well since finding this CD and preparing for this review.

Try, Try, Try is a simple soft rock tune about old relationships and the people they hurt. I still can’t really figure out why Cope isn’t more of a household name these days. You’ve got catchy tunes with lyrics that your average listener should be able to easily relate to. Despite Cope’s British roots, this song still sounds almost American-like in style. Simply put, I wish we could have had more.

God Lives Underwater: No More Love

Even with its catchy melody, No More Love never really took off in the mainstream, and it’s one of the songs I’m most surprised about that not happening. Unfortunately,i t could probably be seen as sounding a bit generic, especially when surrounded by not only other artists in its genre, but on the American label itself.

Perhaps No More Love‘s biggest mainstream exposure was when the Fox Sports Network (FSN) started using part of the song during some of its promos. This didn’t last long though, and it — along with God Lives Underwater — went back to obscurity faster than Jake Loyd (Who? Exactly.) I would have liked to have seen just what these guys could’ve come up with if it had worked out, since the song does show promise.

Ruth Ruth: Uninvited

Ruth Ruth, one more band with promise that is lamentably near unheard of today. Uninvited, a song of crashing parties and just having fun all night, is another catchy rock song, but it’s also just for fun. There’s no sad message of love lost, or stalkers, or hating the business altogether, but just having fun while getting in trouble at the same time.

Honestly, I love this song probably the most out of anything else on the album, and I would have loved hear more. From what I could find online, Ruth Ruth still performs today, but has yet to really find THAT song that really makes them, and I hope that it comes someday.

Laika: 44 Robbers

The strangest song on the album by far, is by the mysterious band Laika. An odd mix of techno-electronic and a bit of punk come together to give us this piece about being chased (or at least stalked violently) by a group of 44 robbers. The lead singer seems to be less scared of the forty-five people mysteriously trying to get to her (for what reason is never specified), and more into the fact that she can take care of it herself and doesn’t need any help, not even by Hulk Hogan. Eventually, it’s realized that she’s simply stating that she’s ready to take on whatever the big city throws at her. I really want to find more of Laika’s songs, just to see if it can help explain what 44 Robbers was really about.

Lindsey: Got It Going On

Truly, Got It Going On defines “generic” at its best. Put a keyboard in “Whoomp-there-it-is” mode and start talking about attractive women, and you have this song. It all comes across as something that almost seems thrown on the sampler at the last minute. Obviously, these guys never really took off, considering I can’t find any info on them at all. Maybe if I could find more of their music I’d have a better idea of what these guys were supposed to be about, but I can’t find anything to really define this group. Instead we get another “fun rap” song.

Got It Going On is probably my least favorite of any song here. It tries to rely on a catchy line and rhythm and does little else.

 

Well, that’s it. The CD may be over ten years-old, and most of the artists and musicians featured here may be either barely known or gone altogether, but for a period of time in 1995 they were played along with some Genesis player’s collections of CDs, and their music was listened to and passed around. These twelve songs got those fifteen minutes of play, and I hope a few can get fifteen minutes more.

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Picture of Julian Cope property of John Bownas/Virtual Festivals.

 

Rating (out of 5): 

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