Thing of the Day
Thinking Plague at work - and free downloads from the vaults...
April 5th 2011
"...Poet Allen Ginsberg came up to me after our set there and said, "Wow! Like Stravinsky with a drum beat!" The usual response, however, consisted of impassioned calls for the next band, catcalls, and girls shouting "Go home!" It seems Denver was not ready for the Plague…
Thinking Plague were way, way ahead of their time. It's hard to think of any other band back in 1980, other than Cardiacs, who so unselfconciously absorbed and re-created the energy and hard edges and contemporary feel of punk and new wave into the structures and freedom of progressive rock and classical composition. Dark, elegantly twisted melodies, meticulously crafted, boundary-pushing songwriting full of space and atmosphere, with an otherworldly surreal beauty that can be both chilling and deeply human.
Formed in Colorado by core members Mike Johnson and Bob Drake, Thinking Plague evolved out of basement experiments, gathering members, releasing their first album in 1984. Not hugely prolific, or into diving into the music business grind and touring for months on end, but quietly releasing spectacularly unique, strange, lyrical, moody and magical albums every so often, as much as possible when band members are now scattered across the globe. Very much under the radar for decades, their sheer brilliance is now earning them word-of-mouth kudos.
Kind of incredible, then, that Thinking Plague are still around, playing respected fesival gigs, releasing their most recent album in 2003 on Cuneiform Records. Even better - the band have just let out news that they've started work on a new one, due to be released on Cuneiform in the autumn this year. They're also playing the Cuneiform Records festival thing - two weeks of gigs curated by Cuneiform at John Zorn's venue The Stone in New York (expect more info about this at The Organ as we get it ).
In the meantime, the news is a good excuse to flag up this cluster of very, VERY early proto-Plague / related project recordings placed on their web site by Bob Drake last year. These are eight mp3s of early 80s recordings, some made using the honourable and sonically pleasing, desperate-unmoneyed creatives' solution of bouncing between tape recorders. They're not your usual band's early fumblings, rough though they are. The innate talent (all right, lets say it - genius) in these scratchy, sepia beginnings makes for shivers down the spine. They include the first version of 'Warheads', one of Thinking Plague's finest compositions - this version recorded in Denver in 1981.
where you'll find the other early tracks, Thinking Plague news and bio
- here's an mp3 of Behold The Man, from their 1998 album In Extremis: thinkingplague/behold_the_man.mp3
To hear more recent recordings, there's streaming and biogs here: cuneiformrecords.com/thinking