SCIENTISTS ~ BLOOD RED RIVER 1982 - 1984
This is a retrospective of grunge rock pioneers the Scientists. The "Seattle Sound" of the '90s may have brought grunge to the masses, but there are those who believe it first came to fruition in Perth and Sydney, Australia in the 1980s.
That's when the late, great Scientists stalked the earth, rumbling and howling like a pack of wild dingoes. Although the group had formed in Perth a few years before, they really hit their stride from 1982-1984 while based in Sydney, then later London. A six-song EP of the same name was originally released by Au-go-go in 1983 and reissued as a 15-track compilation by Sympathy for the Record Industry in 2001.
This release includes the original tracks, plus selections from four different sessions, including the Brussels-recorded Demolition Derby 12".
No Scientists collection would be complete without "Swampland and "We Had Love, so Blood Red River isn't a bad place to begin one's journey into their dark yet inviting world. Human Jukebox, which covers the years 1984-1986, was released shortly after this release in 2001.
The Scientists have the cure for tired, unimaginative alternative rock.
I can still remember my first encounter with the Scientists pretty vividly. I'd gone to see The Gun Club - touring The Last Vegas Story & fresh off of a 2-song slot on The Tube (which somebody had conveniently uploaded to Youtube last time I looked) - at Nottingham's notorious Rock City &, sloshed on cider & attempting to not piss on my careworn winklepickers, I heard the first growls of the unbeknownst support band from my porcelain vantage point. I'd noticed a short article about them a couple of weeks earlier in the NME but hadn't paid it too much attention & was expecting yet more pale & uninteresting Sisters Of Mercy clones - another miserable Flesh For Lulu or Skeletal Family. Their stuttering, shuddering pre-song tune-up had me zipping up my PVC trews with reckless haste & barging my way stagefront in no time (it wasn't much of a barge tbh - I remember the venue still being half full tops). They looked startling: a wholly alien hybrid of scruffy Detroit hairdos, psyched-out vintage shirts, scuffed 'pickers &, man-oh-man, tatty Levis hipsters the like of which we had never laid our gothic eyes on before (they did the alterations themselves apparently!). I don't remember too much in the way of specific details, 'cept that the first song was "Nitro" & that vocalist / guitarist Kim Salmon quite rightly reprimanded some chattering goth harpy for sniggering at the title of "Murderess In A Purple Dress". Oh, & that they were jawdroppingly awesome. Love at first sight basically. I made a beeline into town & bought their Blood Red River & This Heart Doesn't Run On Blood, This Heart Doesn't Run On Love MLPs the following morning & I still own them both, along with everything they subsequently released & a few earlier bits 'n' pieces also (I'm particularly proud of the Rubber Never Sleeps cassette). They remain one of the few (possibly only) bands I've ever sent a genuine fan letter to. It took almost a year to arrive but when it finally did - Kim Salmon's spidery scrawl in green ink on Scientists' headed notepaper - I was secretly rather flattered. Which is why I've never thrown it away.
If you work at dB Magazine – as I did for almost seven years – it’s a given that you’re going to hear a lot of the Scientists. Our two shared computer servers in the early 00s were called ‘Happy Hour’ and ‘Swampland’, for freak’s sake. Publisher Arna Eyers-White and editor Alex Wheaton both dig the band with great enthusiasm, and the reissue of Blood Red River in the late 90s with singles and b-sides thereon got some serious thrashing in the office. Frankly, had there been a video for it, this song would be ‘Swampland’: how the hell Kim Salmon managed to make a slightly goofy couplet like “My heart is a place called Swampland/Nine parts water, one part sand” sound effortlessly cool and downright sinister still amazes me.
That CD also helped me understand why people worshipped Salmon, which I’d never quite gotten before. I mean, he does good work, but you do kinda need to see where he came from first, in the same way that Ed Kuepper‘s career is brighter and more dazzling if you have the Saints and the Laughing Clowns to give it context.
I saw the band play the Blood Red River album start to finish at the Enmore a couple of years ago, opening for Sonic Youth playing Daydream Nation. What a great night.