Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Fluid - Clear Black Paper LP & Freak Magnet EP (1988/89)

By 1991, when I was a junior in high school, I was completely and utterly immersed in the Sub Pop/Seattle/grunge/indie axis, and at the time it seemed like there was no turning back. So much so that after I acquired a taste for Mudhoney, Nirvana, Swallow, Tad and others, I was more than motivated to burrow even deeper into the trove of Sub Pop Records bands that I was unfamiliar with, but there wasn’t much else to unearth at that time. One unexplored name was a Denver band called The Fluid, spearheaded by John Robinson, a veritable born punk rocker. I took a gamble on a cassette containing their two Sub Pop records, Roadmouth and the quickly followed-up, Glue EP. It was a wager that paid off colossally. Roadmouth, their third album released in 1989, delivered on the bass-heavy, swampy guitar-laden, noisy “new school” of punk rock that I was craving more of. Despite it’s often inane lyrics and random WWII references, it was an album I epitomized just as much as Never Mind the Bollocks, or any given Ramones record. Jack Endino, and later Butch Vig did a real number on the Fluid, entirely for the better I might add, on Roadmouth and Glue respectively. Their 1990 Glue EP wasn’t quite as sonically bludgeoning (the bass having been manicured a few notches), but just as snarling and intense as Roadmouth. Thoroughly in thrall with my newfound discoveries, I soon sought the Fluid’s earlier recordings. Living in a small town in the pre-webtopia era, it wasn’t easy, and in fact, took me a few years to procure the two records this post concerns.

The one Fluid album I don’t own is their debut, Punch N’ Judy on the Denver based Rayon Records imprint. I have spent a little time with it however, and as even the band may concur it it’s less than persuasive. With a healthy dollop of New York Dolls flaunt, Stonsey blues-rock, and some tattered punk fringes, safety-pinned on for size, Punch.., hardly did The Fluid justice.
That would largely be remedied on their next album, the internationally released Clear Black Paper, on Sub Pop in America, and on Glitterhouse across the pond. The swagger was still there, but the approach was much linear, and more significantly, leaner. Indeed, less was more for the Fluid circa 1988, but not necessarily memorable. Clear…is solid, tight, and rhythmically aware, but even though it failed to hit the mark, the building blocks were in place for grander things to come. Released almost simultaneously, was the seven-song Freak Magnet, that perhaps more than all their records to date genuinely exuded the Fluid’s potential. On gems like “Kill City,” and “Hall of Mirrors,” it was as if Robinson was seemingly in cahoots with Iggy Pop and Stiv Bators, if only vicariously.
As far as I know, none of the 17 tracks between these records have been ushered into the digital era. The US version of Clear Black Paper, has four songs not on it’s Glitterhouse Records counterpart, and vice-versa. The four missing tracks from the American LP are paired with three more cuts on Freak Magnet, only available as a European import. Confused? Thought so. This post, taken from the Glitterhouse version of CBP has all 17 tracks between them. The complete picture if you will, literally, as there were alternate album sleeves, specific to each continent.

You can check out even more Fluid music at another blog, which has thoughtfully archived the band’s full catalog of albums, some post-Glue demos, and vintage live cuts. I ripped the tracks in this post straight from my original vinyl copies and did not lift them from the above linked website or an alternate source.

Clear Black Paper
01. Cold Outside
02. Nick of Time
03. Lonely One
04. Just Another Day
05. Nashville Nights
06. Tell Me Things
07. Today I Shot the Devil
08. Much Too Much
09. Your Kinda Thing

10. New Questions 

Freak Magnet
11. I'm NOt Going to Do It
12. It's My Time
13. Left Unsaid
14. Kill City
15. Don't Wanna Play
16. Try Try Try
17. Hall of Mirrors

Clear Black Paper:
Freak Magnet:


Alex said...

Thanks a bunch for this post. I just got a copy of CBP and the b-side is messed up.

nickp said...

Thanks for posting these. I foolishly got rid of my vinyl copies of both these (Glitterhouse versions) years ago and have regretted it ever since. Still no sign of anything pre-Roadmouth available digitally.

Dan said...

Nonsense, Punch N Judy is a great album. The original on Ray-On is mixed better than the Glitterhouse version. The Glitterhouse version I call the special "mud mix" or "grunge mix." The US version sounds way better.

Unknown said...

Do you have Punch N Judy? I can't find it anywhere. :(

spavid said...

The links have been fixed.

e6gMan said...

Hello, is there anyway you could re-up this? Please and thank you.

psubliminal said...

I bought a copy of Clear Black Paper in Ann Arbor, MI back in the early '90s when I was listening to a lot of grunge. I still have it, since I don't think it's ever been released on CD, but it's not handy. I second the request for a re-up.