Josef K

Emerging from Scotland's late-1970s nearly post-punk scene, Josef K retains its wry, surly-dark (pre-goth) edge despite the passage of time. Comprising its complete 1980-81 output, Entomology (the band's first U.S. release, btw) presents Josef K in all its timelessly downcast glory. The band's approach was very consistent, almost too much so — brittle, heavily rhythmic, almost thrash-y (though not hardcore) guitar shards driven by supple, rippling, out-front bass lines; catchy melodies that aren't at all “pop-y”. Frontman Paul Haig's slightly flat vocals drip with alienation and droll resignation (with some of the yelp of Talking Heads' David Byrne circa '78/'79) yet project a world-weary crooner's ease, and the no-frills production (with a touch of echo) recalls the glory days of 1960s garage bands. Taken as a whole, Entomology is somewhat same-y, but many songs, such as the frenetic “Crazy to Exist” (that Franz Kafka influence again — where do ya think the group got its name, anyway?), get the adrenaline going as surely as Wire, the Fall, or the Mekons at their respective raw '70s peaks. That, pilgrims, is a righteous thing. — Mark Keresman

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