Rocket From the Tombs performs December 14 at the Gypsy Tea Room.
Drinking coffee with Jason Pierce of Spiritualized one morning earlier this year (actually, I drank coffee; he drank Rolling Rock), I asked him why Amazing Grace, his band's latest album, sounds so much rawer and more off-the-cuff than the couple that preceded it. He took a swig (actually, two) and told me that a major reason was the release of last year's The Day the Earth Met the Rocket From the Tombs, a long-awaited compilation of demo recordings and live tracks by Rocket from the Tombs, six very raw and off-the-cuff gentlemen, inspiration to San Diego's Rocket From the Crypt and probably Cleveland's best underappreciated protopunk band ever. Listening to The Day the Earth, it's easy to hear what Pierce got out of it: On much-covered chestnuts like "Sonic Reducer" and "Ain't It Fun," the band--populated by future members of subsequent New York punk outfit the Dead Boys and steadfast Cleveland art-wanks Pere Ubu--bashes through what in different hands would be tired classic-rock riffraff, stripping away any note of excess and injecting hobbled power chords with the electricity of young people very angry at something very lame. Reunited this summer and evidently satisfied with the results, the Tombs are on tour again (minus singer/guitarist Peter Laughner, dead at 25 in 1977), and by reports elsewhere they sound as mythically cranky as they ever were. Which is undoubtedly a good thing.