Is that the twang of guitar abuse chiming over What A Drag’s opening minutes, or the sound of something rummaging through a box of crockery? Both perhaps? It’s one of many noises on the tape that rustle and creak beyond the ease of sonic categorisation, and as the band moniker aptly suggests, the record comprises of eroded shapes and mysterious implication; sound as fossil, just barely resisting time’s attempts to eradicate its character and shape.
Even if it was without the ugly dents and decay that come with the record’s crumbling low fidelity, What A Drag would be an ugly work. About 11-minutes into the first side, the record begins to sound like some rusting metal watermill, with rippling static sloshing across a hideous, rotary turbine squeak; elsewhere, the music comes to resemble the broken wail of submarine sonar, or the sound of thrown pebbles clattering into the side of a flimsy metallic shed. It’s a catalogue of unwanted audial bi-products – polluting sonic processes rendered even more toxic by the abrasive method of monophonic capture, writhing through the creases of garbled magnetic tape.
Things change suddenly ten minutes into the second half – the noise cuts dead, re-emerging in greater clarity as a vaster, brighter live recording. The underbelly of distortion becomes tempered by bubbling synthesisers that dance in rather dainty patterns over the top, before the whole thing transforms into some sort of ominous funeral train for the final five minutes, trundling laboriously through monster groans and malformed, processed pop music. Regardless of these abrupt shifts in shape, the band’s persistent will to unsettle – while trampling over traditionally held production values – renders the whole tape coherent enough.