Fed to the major-label mainstream as part of the briefly noted San Diego scene (along with Rocket From the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu and others), Rust is nothing more than Stone Temple Pilots with an ineffectually nerdy singer (John Brinton). The quartet’s seven-song Rust mini-album, clearly recorded by Wharton Tiers, is appallingly stupid, proffering the lamest clichés without a hint of embarrassment. (“Is this the way the world ends?/Not with bombs but with our friends/We’ll see the forest for the trees/We’ll wreck it with our disease.” Sheesh.) The full-length Bar Chord Ritual, overseen by a more commercial producer (Dave Jerden), is concomitantly more presentable. Guitarist Czar Michael Suzick makes a good, bracing row, but Brinton — who writes the lyrics, natch — is such a phony-sounding dud that none of the generic Lollapalooza thunder matters. Whether he’s moaning about getting up in the morning (“Five More Minutes”), examining society’s ills (“Someone You Know”), contemplating existential dilemmas (“Perhaps?”) or detailing the subtleties of romance (“A Night s Comedy,” “Song for a Wedding”), he misses the mark equally in words and deed.
Suzick and drummer Pat Hogan also play in a local band called Red Truck; bassist Timothy Blankenship (ex-Liquid Sunshine) moonlights in the Rust-outstripping Creedle. Done up in especially lurid comic book artwork, Half Man, Half Pie!! combines guitar rock — alternately scraggly, angular, noisy, melodic and jazzy — with such found-sound spoken passages as the blandly rendered confession of a murderer, the desperate cries of an accident victim, commercials and phone calls. Imagine a band rehearsing in the rec room with the TV on way too loud, and that’s the beginning of this end. (Typical of San Diego scene in-breeding, there’s a song named for Drive Like Jehu drummer Mark Trombino.)
It seems Creedle was only cracking its knuckles the first time: like the debut, only way more so, the long, weird, intricate and madly inventive Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars (subtitled The secret teachings of all ages: an encyclopedic outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Cabbalistic and Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy) is absolutely captivating. Ultimately a down-to-earth surreal joke, this art-damned approximation of Monks of Doom gone grunge-o-punk is jampacked with samples, processed vocals and all sorts of zany musical maneuvers. There’s a disturbing intelligence buried beneath all the silliness, and it’s probably safest left there.