After leading the leftist agit-punk Dils and cowpunk-pioneering Rank and File, California brothers Chip and Tony Kinman (originally of the punk Dils) reinvented themselves as BlackBird, a brooding duo whose clattery low-tech electro-garage sound and dystopic lyrical attitude presaged some of what would come to be known as industrial music. But, while most such combos generally attach a mechanical sound to equally machinelike compositions, BlackBird uses its technology as a counterpoint to its consistently well-crafted songs, which do not stray so far from the brothers’ punk and country roots.
BlackBird’s two eponymous Iloki albums are completely separate entities. The first (red cover) is the noisier and riffier of the two, and contains the group’s most memorable song, “Howl.” The second (black cover with pink lizard) leans more towards melody, with the uncharacteristic love song “Hold Me” and an interesting version of Lou Reed’s “What Goes On.” The Fundamental import is a compilation of the Iloki albums.
By the time BlackBird released yet another eponymous album on Scotti Bros., the Kinmans had lightened up enough to allow themselves to place relatively straightforward love songs like “Take Me” and “Be My Friend” alongside the darker material. The album also recycles tunes (“Howl,” “Quicksand”) from the first two discs in clearer, less abrasive remixes that bring out their lyrical and melodic strengths without losing their original tension. It also features a timely reworking of the Dils’ classic “Class War.”
BlackBird returned to Iloki for a single, “Big Train.” (Mike Watt later covered the song on his 1995 album.) With that as a finale, the Kinmans put BlackBird to rest but continued working together, using the handle Chipandtony.