Rocket From the Crypt: All Systems Go III

RFTC's second album of the year, a collection of raw eight-track demos recorded between 1997-2000, sounds pretty darn good for a band that went defunct in 2005.

Rocket From the Crypt

All Systems Go III

Contributors: John Reis
Label: Vagrant
US Release Date: 2008-08-26
UK Release Date: 2008-09-01

John "Speedo" Reis has had a busy year. Besides launching his new band The Night Marchers and their debut album See You in Magic, he's also overseen two Rocket From the Crypt releases. That's a lot of activity for a band that played its last show in 2005. February's R.I.P. CD/DVD combo featured extensive liner notes from Reis, and his scrawl is also all over All Systems Go III, discussing each track and writing about the rehearsal space where these songs were recorded. The first two All Systems Go albums were compilations of Rocket From the Crypt songs that appeared on 7" and hard-to-find compilation discs. This one, in contrast, is a collection of songs recorded live between 1997-2000 to an eight-track tape machine at the band's rehearsal space.

Reis says in the liner notes that he originally never would have considered putting this stuff out, but listening to the tapes from about a decade of distance has changed his mind. Which is good news for RFTC fans, because there is a lot of good material here, most of it previously unreleased. The sound is predictably raw and some of the songs are pretty rough, sure. But considering the band's punk-with-horns, '60s biker gang aesthetic, raw and rough sounds just about right.

These 20 songs show a bunch of different sides of the band. The instrumental "The Whip" borders on hardcore, with swirling guitar riffs and pounding drums that don't let up. "Tiger Mask", the disc's other instrumental, is similarly hard-edged, but mellowed out by a melodic horn chorus that gives the song a dose of catchiness. "Chariots on Fire", which later showed up on the UK release of Group Sounds, sounds like a traditional RFTC song, with Speedo's sung-shouted lyrics over a memorable horn line, and some gang vocals thrown in for good measure. The pairing of "When in Rome (Do the Jerk)" and "Dick on a Dog" are demos for songs that made it onto the RFTC album, and there's something to be said for the raw energy of these versions. Especially considering the overproduced, slightly too polished nature of that album. And then there's "Little Shaver", which despite some silly lyrics is the closest to a straight pop song here. Not only is it midtempo, it features fully fleshed-out horn parts, Reis singing melodically, and even a harmonica. It's so catchy that after hearing it once, I temporarily convinced myself I had heard it somewhere before. But this is the song's first appearance.

The liner notes reveal an interesting bit about the song "Pictures of Lenny". Reis wrote the lyrics after finishing the Phil Spector bio He's a Rebel, and the chorus to the song is "Phil, don't whip it out / you're gonna hurt someone / your prints are on the gun". As Reis says, a song that somewhat predicted the future. The lyrics for the rest of the tracks range from amusing to dumb. "Summer Survivor" imagines a trip to the beach where the beach is filled with aggravating Arizonans. "No Way at All" falls into the "dumb" category, with the refrain "My head has no feeling / I'm numb to the feeling... / There's no way of dealing". But when you're going through raw demos, insightful lyrics are never a guarantee.

As a time capsule of Rocket From the Crypt circa the late '90s, All Systems Go III is a fun listen. There's plenty to like here, but naturally, not all of the songs are winners. Some of them lack the hooks that made RFTC such a fun band, others feel unfinished, and some actually sound like they would've benefited from a bit of polish. This may not be the way for new listeners to get into the band, but it's a great release for established fans. I'm not sure if it was the intention of the members of RFTC or Vagrant Records, but All Systems Go III works very well as a companion piece to R.I.P. With the latter, you got to see the band in their live element, working hard in oppressive heat, playing their favorite/best songs for the fans. With the former, you get to hear them equally live, but playing unfamiliar material mostly for themselves. It makes for a pretty nice sendoff to a band that went underappreciated outside of its core audience.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.