During its existence, this Poughkeepsie, NY-spawned trio hacked up exceedingly dense hairballs of frat-boy-cum-trade-unionist fusion-punk. Heavily indebted to, if slightly to the right of (aesthetically) the Minutemen and Gang of Four, Agitpop operated on the age-old principle of “free your ass and your mind will follow.” The thing is, unlike the bulk of their boho brethren, Agitpop navigate those hip joints as though they were doctors of chiropractic.
Feast of the Sunfish makes the most of the band’s strengths; a love of open space, an aggressively jazzy rhythm section and a frontman, John DeVries, who’s not altogether crazy about being in the spotlight. DeVries is choosy about where to spray his terse, atonal guitar leads (rhythm is almost totally absent) and he buries his pointed lyrics with the glee of someone sending pals off on a killer scavenger hunt. Make particular effort to exhume the contents of “Loaded with Blanks” and the chilling (no pun intended) “Icicles.”
Back at the Plain of Jars is palpably riper. The sympathetically austere production (by Comm3 honcho Albert Garzon) adds a sinister edge to the odd instruments (wind chimes, squeeze toys, kiddie xylophones) all three members wield with exponentially increased dexterity. Not as twee as Pianosaurus, songs like “Snowdrift Over 4 Feet Tall” and the clever anti-Reagan jab “His Worst Movie Ever” verge on the sweet bad-seed menace of The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.
For some reason, inking to Minneapolis’ TwinTone label invested Agitpop with a yen for janglepop — after a fashion. Open Seasons grafts more florid playing onto their stolid Minutemen roots and ends up making you pine for what fIREHOSE could have been had the right third hand stirred the soup. The smoothed-up Stick It, which echoes Soul Asylum and the Replacements in spots, could be fROMOHIO outtakes; a monotonous landscape (most obviously the flat remake of Sunfish‘s “On the Hudson”) with precious few surprises, although “Crack in Her Heart” is a spry mod nugget.
The four-song Po-Town Tea Party contains a bracing cover of Gang of Four’s “Not Great Men” and a rather hazy take on Cream’s “Badge.” The Comm3 Sessions combines the first two LPs on a single CD, adding a pair of extra tracks. Agitpop broke up in late ’90, spawning a band called Cellophane.