Formed from a pair of prominent Denver punk groups, Fluid sets to reviving the Stooges and MC5 (minus the outlook and outrage) and reliving ’60s garage-punk and folk- rock on its raunchy-sounding self-produced debut. Punch n Judy benefits from the quintet’s obvious knowledge of Creem magazine’s classics, but the twin-guitar attack and John Robinson’s vocals are neither retro-cool nor distinctive, and the haphazard songwriting rarely yields anything memorable.
Adding Grand Funk, the Amboy Dukes and Alice Cooper to its stylistic reference library, Fluid updates punchy riff- based guitar rock with a measured dose of post-punk noise on Clear Black Paper (the CD and cassette of which also contain Punch n Judy). Caught indecisively between the past and the present, the LP cruises along on a fairly even keel with only limited success. Try as they might, the band’s best efforts—simply functional songs like “Cold Outside,” “Try, Try, Try” and “It’s My Time”—just don’t pack enough sonic power to ignite.
Producer Jack Endino fixed that problem on the geometrically more intense Roadmouth, sharpening up a wailing knife of dual guitars over which Robinson snarls tensely controlled vocals with real conviction. Besides significantly better playing, Fluid comes up with greatly improved ’60s-derived material: “Ode to Miss Lodge,” “Twisted & Pissed” and the monumental “Fool’s Rule.”
The six-song Glue (which has Roadmouth added to its cassette and CD) cranks the Fluid motor even more. Starting with a spectacular cover of a little-known Troggs’ song (“Our Love Will Still Be There”) that kicks out the Jams with charging neo-mod catchiness, producer Butch Vig captures up a buzzing punky blitz, pouring flammable Fluid across the entire audio spectrum and igniting it with cool tunes like “Black Glove” and the hooky “Pretty Mouse.”
Formed as a side project by drummer Garrett Shavlik and two friends, Spell became a full-time undertaking when he left the Fluid in ’93. With a heavy-bottomed rock sound and shifting vocal arrangements of Shavlik, guitarist Tim Beckman and femme bassist Chanin Floyd (none of whom can sing all that well), Spell alternately sounds like a bad Sonic Youth cover band, a well-behaved Hole or X auditioning for grunge night. “Superstar” and “4-b” have hooky melodies and a few other tracks rise above the generic roar, but this Mississippi isn’t worth the visit.