While we are all mourning the end of the compact disc era, we would
like to take a moment to reflect on the tragic demise of the cassette tape. Sure, mass-produced cassettes sounded awful compared to vinyl, were prone to jam or get eaten by your tape player, and would wear out quickly, but their affordability and the ease of copying made them a goddamn blessing to the underground community. Of course, now with cd-rs, cheap cd burners, and mp3s, it’s even easier to distribute your tunes, but we still feel a bit sentimental toward the oft-maligned cassette tape. From the UK Do-It-Yourself labels (like Fuck Off/Street Level, Deleted, and New Crimes Tapes), to the early K Records and Sub Pop compilations, to the 90s lo-fi bedroom labels (like Shrimper, Elsinor, and Union Pole), the cassette has had a rich, though largely obscure past. Outside of one-man, lo-fi black metal bands and harsh noise artists, it doesn’t seem like anybody manufactures them anymore, and few stores bother to carry them.
And that brings us to this week’s hot pick: the almighty Karp and their self-titled tape. Released in 1992 by Unwound bassist Vern Rumsey’s Punk In My Vitamins label, the tape is eight songs of Karp at their earliest and rawest. Featuring Jared on bass/vocals, Chris on guitar, and Scott on drums, the band’s line-up remained the same until they broke up in the late 1990s. Vern also recorded the band in Olympia’s State Theater, and several songs were later re-recorded for various releases. Some of these songs were also included on the Action Chemistry compilation CD.
The label–-also the name of Vern’s fanzine--released split tapes by Long Hind Legs and Kicking Giant and by Long Hind Legs and Mundt, a short-lived duo featuring Mukilteo Fairy/Tight Bro Quitty and Crimpshire drummer/zinester Aaron Cometbus; they later moved on to releasing vinyl. Sadly, I lost all of my old fanzines during a move, but if memory serves me right, Vern would often include a cassette tape with his ‘zine. Also, if I remember correctly, there might have also been some Thrones and Dub Narcotic tapes.
I’m not sure if Chris did much after Karp, but Jared later fronted the Tight Bros From Way Back When and then reunited with Scott in the great band, The Whip. Sadly, Scott died in a boating accident in 2003. Jared now does double time in Big Business and the Melvins.
The very fine blog Strange Reaction also did a Karp post here, and you can find a complete discography here.
The Falling Under
Me Big Mouth
30 Ton Press
Rocky Mountain Rescue
As a bonus, here's a live Karp show that our friend Jay recorded in Portland:
-- MC Tom