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Subtonix | The Vanishing 

Tarantism (Troubleman Unlimited)| In the Bat Haus (Cochon)

Wednesday, Aug 28 2002
Let's say for argument's sake that the current state of music is like Sissy Spacek's character in the movie Carrie: shy, quiet, nothing special. Then Subtonix could be her ultra-destructive telekinetic powers and the Vanishing could be the pig's blood on her prom dress -- i.e., both San Francisco bands peddle spasmodic, shadow-filled music that stands out from the pack like, well, pig's blood on a prom dress.

Subtonix couldn't have picked a more apt title for its debut full-length, Tarantism, as the name refers to a medical condition characterized by uncontrollable body movements often confused with dancing. Over the course of the album's 29 minutes, the all-female quartet creates dense, angular dance-punk, mashing together keyboards, bass, saxophone, and drums as easily as shades of mascara. Meanwhile, the three vocalists trade off between Lydia Lunch-ish no-wave shrieking and the kind of saucy, venom-filled yowls 45 Grave's Dinah Cancer used to wield.

Looking at song titles like "Black Nails in the Coffin" and "My Favorite Way to Die," it seems fitting that the group passed away (broke up) earlier this year, before Tarantism was released. It's also just that the record closes with an amazing cover of "Vertigo" by L.A.'s Screamers, another band that achieved legendary cult status without releasing a record during its lifetime.

While slightly slower in tempo, the Vanishing's 10-inch debut, In the Bat Haus, is no less menacing than Tarantism. With a no-guitar lineup similar to Subtonix's -- as well as one ex-member, Jessie Trashed -- the Vanishing creates a murky, spooky feel perfect for playing at your next funeral or wake. Drummer Brian Hock lays down precise, complex rhythms that twist like a dying snake, while bassist/vocalist Trashed and keyboardist Sadie Shaw (also in the Lies) provide a minor-key horror show. The lyrical matter also treads ground parallel to Subtonix's, with darkly humorous lines such as, "Time to go/ Your head is burning in the fire."

These two bands, along with the Bay Area's other goth/punk freak show, the Phantom Limbs, take the bloated corpse of rock into a dark alley, kicking, scratching, and pummeling it until the body's almost unrecognizable. What remains is a bloody crime scene and the perfect place for the rebirth of rock -- as the undead!

About The Author

Cory Vielma


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