While the music industry struggles with declining sales, pirated music, and embarrassing lawsuits against grandmothers, the reissue and re-release market has been the one silver lining for the major record labels. At one time, meticulous reissues that unearthed demo versions, alternate takes, and unreleased songs were reserved largely for jazz releases. However, the success of those packages have spilled over into nearly every genre, with deluxe packages of material seemingly coming out every month. Sonic Youth, the Cure, DJ Shadow, the Flaming Lips—all of these artists have had their albums dusted off, and lovingly reissued in expanded packages to critical and fan acclaim.
The indie music world, which has fared a bit better in the age of downloading, certainly hasn’t shied away from visiting back catalogs for reissue material. Deluxe editions of Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Guided by Voices’ Bee Thousand were both unveiled to great fanfare. But perhaps the easiest way for indie labels to re-present past releases has been cashing in on the past bands of current hot list artists. The popularity of now-defunct indie emo heroes Braid has alone been responsible for a handful of re-issues of releases from their heyday, including CDs by the otherwise middling Sky Corvair and the Friction discography. Just this month, Colin Meloy’s pre-Decemberists project, Tarkio, received the reissue treatment as well. While this is surely a lucrative venture for both artist and label alike, this wave of reissues diminishes the importance of and the reason why albums should—or shouldn’t—receive this level of loving restoration.
Corm’s Audio Flame Kit finds itself in this predicament. Originally issued on the seminal Dishcord Records in 1996, it fell out of print and was pretty well forgotten. That is, until a band called Q and Not U unleashed their own brand of skronky, slinky, off-kilter post-rock. Suddenly, an album that was perhaps justly left to history’s indie rock textbooks was brought back as an important document in Q and Not U’s pre-existent life.
Though Corm was active for seven years, Audio Flame Kit was the band’s only full-length release, bookended by a handful of EPs and seven-inch releases (later collected and issued as Everything Streamlined on Contrast Records). Unfortunately, there is nothing quite remarkable about this group. True to their biography, they sound exactly what you might think a mid-‘90s band on Dischord would sound like. Borrowing liberally from Fugazi, Jawbox, and other likeminded acts, Audio Flame Kit isn’t a particularly thrilling trip down memory lane. All the familiar sounds are here—slashing guitar lines, headlong percussion, and willfully obtuse lyrics, but there isn’t much that hints at the far more advanced sound Q And Not U would lay down a few years later. Sure, there are some hardcore fans who’ve been patiently awaiting another chance to own the disc, having missed out the first time around, but outside of those listeners, Corm doesn’t shed any new light on the Washington, D.C. scene of that era.
If history does indeed repeat itself, then Audio Flame Kit will spin in the players and iPods of Q and Not U devotees before again falling between the cracks of the indie rock world. Corm were not a milestone, but merely a stepping stone, and one that once visited, can be forgotten without remorse.
// Notes from the Road
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