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ALLEY CATS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Nightmare City (Time Coast) 1981
Escape From the Planet Earth (MCA) 1982
ZARKONS
Riders in the Long Black Parade (Time Coast/Enigma) 1985
Between the Idea and the Reality ... Falls the Shadow (Atlantic) 1988

Dianne Chai (bass/vocals), Randy Stodola (guitar/vocals) and John McCarthy (drums) were an early fixture on the Los Angeles punk scene, churning out loudhardsemifast rock with awful, predictable lyrics. Proceeding from an independent label to the majors, the Alley Cats made two LPs that show a little progress — i.e., Nightmare City is more samey and less imaginatively produced than Escape From Planet Earth.

Parting ways with MCA and their name, the trio reappeared in 1985 as the Zarkons. The diabolical production on the eight-song Riders in the Long Black Parade sinks the heavily echoed vocals deep into the wall behind your speakers; although nearly inaudible, Chai's reasonably dramatic rendition of the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" (in march-time, no less) is the album's only sign of life.

Joined by two new sidepersons (a female vocalist and a different drummer), Stodola and Chai then raised their pretensions tenfold. Between the Idea and the Reality (title courtesy of T.S. Eliot) — a slick and vapid radio wannabe — begins by ruining the Yardbirds' "Heart Full of Soul" with synth drums and a noxious sax solo and then proceeds to desecrate the memory of Dylan Thomas, setting one of his poems ("The Hunchback in the Park") to atrocious fake folk music.

[Ira Robbins]