Release Date: 1986

Track Listing
1)  Discharge
2)  Backwater
3)  Catch As Catch Can
4)  Red Light
5)  Enemy Within
6)  Crackin
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7)  Pig Freedom
8)  Voice Of A Skin Hanger
9)  Zulu Butter

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Member: Reginod (Profile) (All Album Reviews by Reginod)
Date: 10/19/2007
Format: CD (Album)

Here's one that'll definitely get rid of the unwanted guests. That is, unless your guests happen to have a thing for raucous improvisation and free jazz meant to be played at ear-splitting decibels.

Last Exit was a collection of highly accomplished musicians: Peter Brotzman on saxophones, Ronald Shannon Jackson on drums, the ubiquitous Bill Laswell on bass, and the late, incomparable Sonny Sharrock on guitar. They played completely free and improvised music, but did so with a Texas-sized chip on their collective shoulders.

Sharrock in particular seemed to have no use at all for musical convention. Imagine, if you will, having braces violently affixed to your teeth, without anesthesia, then having your mouth forcefully held wide open and exposed, while being dragged face-down across a metal-and-concrete floor covered with broken shards of glass. That might give you some idea of Sharrock's approach to guitar.

Brotzman did his best to follow suit, abusing his saxophones as if he were trying to give himself an aneurysm. Jackson and Laswell came closer to playing sounds with some identifiable structure, but drove the group with a snarling volatility that would make your average thrash combo blush. At the beginning measures of "Discharge" they introduce the music with a frantic intensity, almost falling over one another in their haste to create the constantly metamorphosing landscape whereupon Sharrock and Brotzmann emoted like two schizophrenics, happily freed from a world of bewildering and maddening organization.

At times, a single musician, or two, would step to the forefront while the others took a break. Sharrock shreds the ears toward the end of "Catch As Catch Can;" he and Brotzman do a sick, nightmarish dual chaos on "Red Light" before the rhythm section joins in the destruction. "Enemy Within" is pure punkish tension between all the players; the word "frantic" doesn't do it justice. Laswell takes the spotlight at the beginning of "Crackin" but Sharrock and Brotzman get in their licks as well. And what do you expect out of compositions entitled "Pig Freedom" and "Voice Of A Skin Hanger?" That's exactly what you get. "Pig Freedom" is almost humorous, with the dueling squealing of guitar and sax, and Jackson adds a bizarre kind of singing to "Voice Of A Skin Hanger" before the group tears the musical flesh beyond asunder. After the closer "Zulu Butter" it's time for the meds.

Enemy Records released the quartet's self-titled album in 1986, by which time mainstream music (of any genre) had long since become unbearably impotent. So it could be considered ironic that such an ensemble as Last Exit even existed, even more so that a band devoted to creating such (apparent) cacophony could actually, possibly, ultimately be more listenible than whatever Genesis or Asia might have been doing at the time. The caveat is that the listener would need to be extremely tolerant!

The key to successful improvisation is telepathy between the players. I don't know for sure, but Last Exit seemed to have that quality. What they did NOT have in abundance were rules, only that the sound-making freedom would ensue with fangs bared and amplifiers set to "11." Personally, I really like Last Exit. Perfect for caulking the cracks in the ol' psyche, it is. But this stuff just might make your ears bleed. Y'all have been warned!
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