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Scientists “Blood Red River” (Au Go Go, 1983)

Considered by some to be harbingers of grunge and by others as goth, Scientists always struck me more as Australia’s Stooges. Now, that remote country has fostered many bands with Iggy & company’s DNA, but nobody outside of Birthday Party captured the Stooges’ menacing, seething quality with as much pizzazz as Scientists.

Led by vocalist/guitarist Kim Salmon, Scientists released a self-titled debut album in 1981 whose bubbly power-pop/punk songs didn’t hint at the brooding heaviness that animates their 1983 mini-album, Blood Red River. To these ears, they sounded like lightweight also-rans on that first LP. In retrospect, it makes sense that soon after The Scientists was released, two members left to join the Hoodoo Gurus. Bringing in drummer Brett Rixon, bassist Boris Sujdovic, and guitarist Tony Thewlis had a salubrious effect, as Scientists transformed into a very different and much ornerier beast.

“When Fate Deals Its Mortal Blow” stands as one of the greatest openings to a record ever. Salmon sneers a revenge tale like Lux Interior’s meaner, Down Under Döppleganger while the guitars squeeze out radiated sparks and the rhythm section metronomically marches down a muddy trench with grim certitude. Swagger overload right out of the gate! “Burnout” motors down the garbage-strewn alley with a brutal grunt of a bass line, staccato, pugilistic beats, and guitars like zipping wasps. The song eventually accelerates into a thuggish yet disciplined freakout.

“The Spin” starts exactly like Birthday Party’s sinister blues-rock churn “King Ink,” making it one of the least-surprising moments on Blood Red River. Following in BP singer Nick Cave’s footsteps, Salmon gets off a pitch-perfect, feral Iggy howl. “Rev Head” foreshadows British heavy psychonauts Loop, with some maniacal, Suicide-like repetition (hence the Martin Rev-referencing title) and Alan Vega-esque shouts thrown in for good measure.

One of the coolest songs of the ’80s, “Set It On Fire” forces your mouth agape with jaw-harp-enhanced Stooge-adelia, powered by a thrusting, lascivious bass line, plus well-timed, Jimi Hendrix-meets-Andy Gill guitar explosions. The title track ends the record with sparse, menacing blues rock that, if you saw it stalking toward you, you’d cross the street to avoid it.

Scientists would get trashier and thrashier on 1986’s Weird Love, but for my money, they decisively peaked on the short yet potent Blood Red River. (In 2015, Numero Group reissued Blood Red River. That’s probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to obtain it.) -Buckley Mayfield

Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.

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