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RUDIMENTARY PENI (Buy CDs by this artist)
Rudimentary Peni EP (UK Outer Himalayan) 1981
Farce EP (UK Crass) 1982
Death Church (UK Corpus Christi) 1983
The EPs of RP (UK Corpus Christi) 1987
Cacophony (UK Outer Himalayan) 1988
Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric (UK Outer Himalayan) 1995
Echoes of Anguish (UK Outer Himalayan) 1997
The Underclass (UK Outer Himalayan) 2000

This London hardcore trio from the Crass family always stood apart from the generic anarchist legions, more like a UK counterpart to the Minutemen. The eponymous 7-inch EP is rough going, as the band is tight but tuneless; Nick Blinko's screeching vocals obscure heartfelt lyrics skewering complacency. A bit of rhythmic variety suggested promise, however, and the second EP benefits from better production, fascinating sleeve artwork and some mini-masterworks of alienated vitriol. Both were later paired and reissued as The EPs of RP.

Things come together on Death Church, with venomous lyrics ripping through loud and clear (as they should, given titles like "Vampire State Building" and "Alice Crucifies the Paedophiles"). While the songs are not exactly hook-laden, this is quite melodic for the genre. Tempos run from moderate metal through Pistolian thrash to hyperdrive blur. An intelligent, exciting and highly recommended album.

Bassist Grant Brand's long but successful battle with cancer meant hibernation for Peni during the mid-'80s. By the end of the decade, however, the trio was back with a radical piece of work. Cacophony features a staggering 54 songs (the first album had a mere 20) in about 45 minutes, many only a few seconds long. The trend towards melodicism continues (brief fragments like "The Old Man Is Not So Terribly Misanthropic" are quite catchy), though they remain as cagey, intense and weird as ever. The lyrics abandon politics, dwelling almost wholly on the life, death and work of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Peni spin surreal rants like "Nightgaunts" in a sort of obsessive tribute, interspersed with rugose instrumentals such as "Sunset for the Lords of Venus." With Blinko's vocals frequently Darth Vaderized by a harmonizer, the album's sensibility comes close to Monty Python's black humor — "New England Tombstone Inscriptions" runs off a morbid litany of same, while "A Great Gnashing of Teeth" is exactly that. Cacophony is one of the strangest albums ever made — a Trout Mask Replica for the hardcore age — but the rewards of close attention are ample.

[David Sheridan/Greg Fasolino]