Friday, August 21, 2009

Negativland - "Guns" (LP Review)

"Guns" was the first Negativland release I bought. In retrospect, that was fortunate because this two song EP is one of their most accessible releases. It was released in 1992, replacing the withdrawn 1991 "U2" EP. The saga between Negativland vs. U2's label, Island Records, as well as Negativland vs. their own label, SST Records, is well documented and will not be rehashed here (see: "The Letter U and Numeral 2", "Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2" and "These Guys Are from England and Who Gives a Shit"). The cover art of the "Guns" EP is clear nod to the then-current U2 situation.

"Guns" consists of two songs: "Then" and "Now". "Then" samples from 1950s-1960s icons of TV and film, humorously and critically examining the cultural status of firearms. "Now" is similar, but pulls from more recent sources. I could try to describe the songs further, but since they're available online it is easier to just listen. Due to their dispute with SST, Negativland makes the mp3s freely available from their web site even though SST still sells the EP. How many bands do you know that actually promote free mp3s over their CDs?

Peter Neville has created an excellent video for "Then", providing many of the TV & movie clips that correspond to the samples in the song.

Standout tracks: "Then" (, YouTube), "Now" (

Skip 'em tracks: none.

Final Score: 8/10. Not their most experimental release, but a good intro to their body of work. If this EP resonates with you, you should explore their other releases. If this is not to your liking... well, it pretty much gets weirder and noisier from here.

P.S. Terry went to a Negativland show in Norfolk (ca. late 1992) and got Mark Hosler to autograph my copy of "Guns". There are probably dozens of people (besides Terry and me) that think that's cool.

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