Thursday, September 27, 2007

This Moment in Slack History: Morsels from the Last Great Era of the 7 Inch Record

"This Moment in Slack History" collects songs from 90s indie 7 inches. For further explanation, please see my original post here.

The Kent 3 "In the Tunnel" and "Smokin' Fuse"
In his book "The New Bill James Historial Baseball Abstract" statistician and father of sabermetrics Bill James ranks Darrell Evans as the 10th greatest third baseman of all time (ahead of perennial all stars and more recognizable names like Pie Traynor and Ron Cey) and calls him the most underrated player in the history of the sport. How, you ask? James makes the case that Evans is underrated because a) he played in the shadow of Mike Schmidt (according to James, the greatest 3B who ever lived) who came into the National League around the same time, b) he never played in a major sports media center like New York, LA or Boston and c) sportswriters tend to overvalue batting average and runs batted in when judging a player and Evans was prolific at neither, batting .248 lifetime and driving in 100 runs only once in his 20 year career (though he is 77th on the all time RBI list, ahead of guys like Duke Snider and Steve Garvey). However, James points out that Evans walked a lot (5 seasons at 100 or more bases-on-balls and over 1600 for his career) and hit for power (414 career dingers, an average of about 22 per full season) which was good enough to yield him a career OPS of nearly .800, which is pretty impressive. Plus, Evans was a superior defender at his position and baseball's standard statistics for measuring defense are (as we all know) largely useless thus this part of his game also often overlooked.

So was Darrell Evans a great player? There's certainly a strong case for him being a very good player, superior to many of his contemporaries but somehow overlooked. I'd like to postulate that the Kent 3 were the Darrell Evans of of 90s rock. Like Evans, the band was overshadowed though not by a single, worthier band but by the literal dozens of other band in the Pacific Northwest mining similar sonic territory at the time. And like Evans, the Kent 3 didn't have the media hyping them up either. Most of their releases were on micro labels like Super Electro (which was run by Steve Turner of Mudhoney) or Bag of Hammers (probably the premier indie garage label of the 90s but nowhere near the budget or distribution of a Sub Pop or Epitaph). And like sports writers, the rock press has certain aspects of the game they value over others. You average rock scribe tends value things like "innovation" and "relevance" (and if we're being honest, "popularity") so they can appear to be down with the zeitgeist of the times. The Kent 3 played garage punk, a genre much less fashionable 15 years ago than it is now and the critics couldn't have cared less.

It's a shame because the Kent 3 made some pretty awesome records. While you could easily slide them into the garage punk genre, the Kent 3 were no revivalists or genre fetishists but rather played with their own voice which just happened to be young, loud, snotty and easily categorized. Their songs twisted and turned with jagged edges more reminiscent of Wire than the Chesterfield Kings and were tightly constructed featuring memorable hooks usually courtesy of guitarist Viv Halogen's surf-meets-spaghetti-western leads. After recording a fine debut (Screaming Youth Fantastic) with Mark E Smith-ish vocalist Mike Pitts, Halogen stepped to the front to handle vocals and the group subsequently released 3 more excellent albums (1998's Peasant Musik is especially potent) all of which are probably in the discount "this has been sitting in our racks for 6 years so we're going to do all but give it away" bin of your local record shop. The group has a myspace page (featuring zero songs!) and are apparently still some kind of active outfit.

These two cuts are from some of the Kent 3's earliest releases. "In the Tunnel" is from their first 7" on the (band's?) Generic Records label and "Smokin' Fuse" their 3rd 7", the Coin of the Realm EP on Empty Records, both from 1993. Their 2nd 7", the Chromies EP, is probably their best but it's included in its entirety on Screaming Youth Fantastic and should thus be relatively easy to find once these two nibbles make you hungry for an entire meal. Track this stuff down folks. It's probably available for even less than this would run you...

Yeesh. I guess James forgot to mention that unattractive ball players are underrated too.

Play or Download The Kent 3 "In the Tunnel"

Play or Download The Kent 3 "Smokin' Fuse"

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