If at times it seems rock’n’roll has become little more than a big money-sucking organism, this Seattle quartet has managed to get pretty far fueled on nothing but cheap equipment and cheap pot. Splitting the difference between metallic thud and garage fuzz, Love Battery ambled straight down the double yellow line that divided the two main camps in Sub Pop’s early-’90s dominion — and, to their credit, emerged relatively free of treadmarks.
Formed by singer/guitarist Ron Nine and drummer Jason Finn (veterans of local warhorses Room Nine and Skin Yard, respectively), Love Battery had a mighty impressive unveiling in the form of the classic 1989 single “Between the Eyes,” later expanded as the lead track of a six-song Australian EP which was itself expanded into a domestic LP. The full-length Between the Eyes includes four songs from the Dayglo sessions that are far better than mere outtakes, including a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Ibiza Bar.” Nothing on Dayglo approaches the headbang- necessitating riffery of “Between the Eyes,” but the superfuzzed overkill that guitarist Kevin Whitworth wrings from songs like “Out of Focus” brings on wooziness faster than a liquid light show. Likewise, “Damaged” (not the Black Flag song) runs through a laundry list of psychologically fractured pals in appropriately cautionary “People Who Died” fashion. The Out of Focus EP includes three songs from the first two LPs and a sloppy, spirited run through the Troggs’ “Come Now.”
Love Battery was poised in the on-deck circle to take a swing at “next big thing” fortune, but legal wrangling delayed the release of the largely ignored Far Gone long enough to leave a sour taste in the mouth of all concerned. Too bad, since the band (by this time including bassist Bruce Fairweather, best known as the guy from Mother Love Bone who didn’t join Pearl Jam) had furthered its dynamic skills noticeably: the drunken ramble “Searching for Rose” slurs with appropriate unsteadiness thanks to Fairweather’s mercurial basslines, while “Head of Ringo” chugs along on a melody that reflects the balmy distress of Nine’s decapitated-drummer nightmare.
The four-song Nehru Jacket, meant only as a teaser for the Straight Freak Ticket album, turned out to be much stronger in its own right. Short, sharp and to the point (not to mention fitted with a charming cover of the Telescopes’ acid-pop “Please, Before You Go”), it might be Love Battery’s essential discharge. The subsequent album (released after Fairweather’s departure and containing only two of the EP’s tracks) falls victim to over-styling: “Fuzz Factory” and the bellicose “Straight Freak Show” (a tribute to journalist Hunter S. Thompson) have snap and crackle, but the pop never materializes. Having divided his employment loyalties for months, drummer Jason Finn left the band after Straight Freak Ticket to join the Presidents of the United States of America, who promptly went on to mass-market success.
Love Battery continued to toil in relative obscurity, releasing a phenomenal 1996 single with a bristling, bitter swipe at the major label rock game (“Snipe Hunt”) and the very Kinksy “Punks Want Rights.” Three years later, those two tracks and another dozen chunks of recriminative acid rock appeared on Confusion Au-Go-Go, Love Battery’s most direct, hardest-hitting album and arguably its best. Mudhoney alum Dan Peters, who drummed in a pre-Finn version of Love Battery, returned to play on most tracks, with Mike Musberger (Posies, Fastbacks) and Finn pitching in. It’s Nine’s chance to vent his regret, anger and frustration at the failure of Straight Freak Ticket (in the acetose lyrics of “Corporate Memo”: “They didn’t tell me / What I was getting into / Being so sincere / As if that really makes a difference”) and to rail in general at the bad old world. Whitworth’s forcefully trippy guitar work and Peters’ invigorating drumming make Nine’s darts especially pointed, whether they’re in straight-ahead rockers (the title track), bluesy stomps (“Monkey Brain”) or slow, staggering psych workouts (“Colorblind”).
After a short tour supporting Confusion Au-Go-Go, Love Battery lay dormant for more than five years, with only a 2006 hometown reunion show to its credit. In the meantime, Nine formed a new band, Down With People, that includes former Room Nine bandmates.