Albums under £5: Die Kreuzen – Starship (1981)/Demo (1982)
It helps that both Starship and Demo, two demos put together by hardcore Milwaukee punks Die Kreuzen (pronounced “dee kroytzen” – German, of course, for The Croissants), absolutely rip. The sound quality is what you’d expect from thirty-odd year old demo tapes, which is to say nasty and awful, but that does little to blunt the force when they hit you at full speed. It’s difficult to discuss them as collections of songs rather than just slabs of rage, because they stampede through the songs so fast that it’s impossible to get your bearings. Starship’s first half, for instance, scorches by. It announces its intentions with a howl of feedback, then the band burst in with the fury and precision of an orbital laser weapon and singer Dan Kubinski starts spitting hot vitriol. The band rams twice the scotch into half the egg, keeping structure and melody not only intact but infectious on ninety-second blitzes like In School, which sees the band swinging between fast and slow sections whilst Kubinski, if I’m listening right, angrily demands that you ditch school and join a biker gang.
These demos, like most, show a band in its early stages, and there’s a noticeable step forward in quality between Starship and Demo. Whether it’s because they’ve become more confident or got their hands on some fancier equipment, the band’s playing has improved, and they feel more tightly wound. This is most pronounced when they do over tracks present on Starship – Keith Brammer’s chugging bassline on Hate Me becomes sharp and dextrous, and the melody of Brian Egeness’ guitar on In School is far more pronounced. The main improvement across the tape, however, is Kubinski’s vocals, which are much closer to the death-shriek which jags through Die Kreuzen, their excellent debut full-length. As well as their development, Demo shows the band beginning to experiment with their style – All White, the demo’s closer, is far slower, and the only song on either of them passing the two minute mark. The move away from the thrash end of the spectrum ends up with this excellent piece of low-flame claustrophobia, the dread seeping through it suiting Kubinski’s voice just as well as the anger of the last ten minutes.
Demo is the better of the two overall, but the high point of either is the live section which closes Starship. Recorded at the Starship Club from which the tape takes its name, it takes the energy of the studio half and throws it into frenzied overdrive, whirling through four songs in three and a half minutes before stopping dead and throwing you clear. The sound is still piss, but in the chaos of a live show this is more forgivable.
Die Kreuzen would improve on most of the stuff on these demos on Die Kreuzen, but as introductions to a band go these are amongst the better – fierce, punchy and exciting enough to excuse the fact that they sound like they were recorded in a van. A shot of vigour, as deadlines begin to loom.