With the once-mighty Boston art-noise scene threatening to recede from the world’s consciousness, ex-Mission of Burma/Volcano Suns drummer Peter Prescott launched this fun-spirited ass-biting quartet in which he sings and plays wiry guitar. Kustomized’s drummer, Kurt Davis, sang in Bullet LaVolta (where he was known as Yukki Gipe); guitarist Ed Yazijian and bassist Bob Moses complete the loose-fitting lineup. Keeping it all in the family, former Volcano Suns bassist Bob Weston, now of Shellac, produced the first two records, honing a serrated Chicago edge onto the band’s casual stylings.
If Steve Albini hadn’t actually produced a Fleshtones album, some of the six shitty-sounding tracks that comprise The Mystery of Kustomized would at least give some indication of how that pairing might work out. “Big Trick” and a cover of Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” are strictly windswept exercises in venomous guitar slashing, but the racing “Overnight Namedrop,” “Nothing. Not One,” “It Lives!” and the goofy “Full” have rock’n’roll hearts ticking beneath the band’s burly aggression.
While 22 minutes of adrenalized slop is no hardship post, a full-length album of Kustomized’s loud nonsense is a lot to sit through. Elaborating on the EP’s vintage garage-rock essence, The Battle for Space benefits from sharper studio fidelity and a fatter rhythmic core, winding up shifting a latter-day New York Dolls through ’90s equipment. Still, Kustomized’s work habits — dazed fuzzbusters on a high-speed chase under the watchful eye of a critical noise expert — don’t do any favors to songs (“The Day I Had Some Fun,” “Puff Piece,” “33 1/3” and the unlisted bonus cut appended to the final track) that would have benefited greatly from being put up on blocks and stripped down.
With Malcolm Travis — recently freed of his rhythmic obligations to Bob Mould in Sugar — taking over from Davis and Weston out of the picture, Kustomized shifted gears for the better on At the Vanishing Point. Diverse in tone, less prone to self-defeating indulgence and equipped with more generally reliable material, the album reveals the quartet’s stylish side in “The One That Got Away,” economically driven by two-fingered organ until a flamethrower guitar break, a properly noirish version of “Harlem Nocturne” and the opening instrumental, “Handcuffs.” Elsewhere, Kustomized joyfully overkills simple tunes like a cover of Government Issue’s “Bored to Death” with delirious power. So much for suave bachelor pad music — this brings it all back home to the crash pad floor.
Before Kustomized, Ed Yazijian played lead violin (!) in Boston’s excellent but little-known High Risk Group. Running Among the Sevens contains the five songs from two late-’80s singles released in the US on Harriet and adds an extra track, “Dull Stare.” A third single, “Pulsed,” was produced by Come’s Thalia Zedek, whose voice has a lot in common with HRG guitarist Debbie Nadolney’s low-pitched rasp. Come’s sound, in fact, has a lot in common with the droning, muscular throb that characterized High Risk Group.