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VERTIGO (Buy CDs by this artist)
Vertigo (Amphetamine Reptile) 1990
Rub EP (Amphetamine Reptile) 1991
Ventriloquist (Amphetamine Reptile) 1992
Nail Hole (Amphetamine Reptile) 1993

These unusually tightly wound proponents of the well-established AmRep mindset — laymen should imagine malicious smart guys who look like grad students but carry blackjacks to bludgeon unsuspecting bystanders — operate with the unconscious mindmeld of a free jazz ensemble. Their "gimmick" (although they don't treat it as one) is the lack of a bass player: okay, guitarists Jared Aos and Gene Tangren occasionally resort to use of the four-stringed beast but, mostly, they lock horns and put the pedals to the treble. Let the eardrums beware.

The Minneapolis trio's self-titled debut (released hot on the heels of the improbably infectious "Bad Syd" single) charges the air with static electricity but fails to put that spark to much use, although a pair of garage-rock covers do muster a snotty snarl. Rub cuts back on the "rock" component of the band's sound, letting drummer Roy Llerandi lead a mostly fruitful sonic scavenger hunt along the banks of the River Skronk.

Although Ventriloquist begins with a head-turning change of pace — "Love Withdrawal," a fuzzed-out sliver of post-Mudhoney garage-punk — the album settles into a more familiar misanthropic rage by the middle of "Rocket V," a spoken (make that shouted) word diatribe about noisy neighbors (talk about the pot calling the kettle black!). Inspirational verse: "Open the door/Let me in/I swear I'll bash your brains out if I have to."

About halfway through the recording of Ventriloquist, Llerandi was replaced by Bill Beeman. Beeman's receptiveness to the simple 4/4 — and the more widespread use of bass — makes Nail Hole more conventionally rhythmic than its predecessors, bounded by the Midwest punk swagger of "King of Terror" on one hand and the post-psychedelic spuzz of "Up the Road" on the other.

[David Sprague]