8 Eyed Spy: 8 Eyed Spy (Fetish FR2003)

“IT WAS FUN while it lasted,” Pat Irwin (now a Raybeat) sighs in the liner notes to this catch-all retrospective of live and studio tracks. 8 Eyed Spy’s busy, demanding style wasn’t the kind normally associated with a good time, but it must have been an education for the musicians. This LP’s unfinished feeling would raise suspicion of a cash-in on a defunct operation were there any commercial potential. Instead, it’s just a farewell to the fans.

8 Eyed Spy fit comfortably into the “No New York” stereotype; dissonant tones and uncomfortable rhythms made the band’s output more attitudinal than musical. The poorly-recorded live side defines them perfectly, caught at fever pitch. Singer Lydia Lunch, avoiding melody like the plague, plays hectoring ringmistress as the band throws out sheets of sound on ‘You Twist, I Shout’ and ‘Two Square’. Irwin’s surf guitar weaves through staggering drums and six-string chicken scratching in ‘Motor Oil Shanty’. The Shangri-Las meet cacophony on ‘Lightning’s Girl’ (and get crushed in the process). A sour version of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ illustrates the difficulties inherent in 8 Eyed Spy’s extreme approach: They don’t want to play the song straight, but in taking it to the limit can’t agree on a direction.

The studio side (with Irwin’s overdubbed bass replacing the late George Scott III) trades off some danger for greater clarity; it’s more listenable, if less representative. Bo Diddley’s ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ comes within striking distance of a funky dance tune. A dizzy ‘Run Thru the Jungle’ makes twisted sense, though John Fogerty would probably be mystified.

“I sort of wondered if the customers really had fun,” Irwin writes, and understandably so, since 8 Eyed Spy was more confrontational than entertaining. Once upon a time this music would have been scorned as just plain bad. Now it’s just as likely to be the stuff of legend.

© Jon YoungTrouser Press, March 1982

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