Square Awed

Pawn your gold tooth. Hawk your glass eye. Sell your blood if you must. Whatever it takes, find a way to obtain Live at the Square Vol. II.

The critical first ten seconds present a perfect preview of what's to come: A too-real to not be real drum riff from F.O.C. to intro the defunct band's classic "Grape Bubblegum Reminds Me of Nancy." Real drums. Real musicians. From start to finish not a poseur in the batch.

So let's distinguish: Don't buy the CD until after you have the double cassette, which boasts no less than 33 tracks. The CD has only half as many. You want them all.

From those introductory drums on, this is an easy sell. After the double-dope F.O.C. opening, Natural Causes checks in with six minutes of pure wonderment by the name of "Crazy Mixed Up World." There's little disputing that the Causes are one of the best bands in America, but their repertoire has left their released material -- namely the CD Bomb in the Shelter -- behind. They should've released a second, or even third, longplayer by now, but so far they haven't found a label smart enough to finance such a project. "Crazy" is the sort of song that can make summer -- and maybe even childhood -- seem endless.

Before you have a chance to shove your heart back down into your chest or steal a glance at the punch bowl, Diane Ward and Sturgis Nikides kick "When I'm Needing Someone" for when you're needing a great song.

Finally a chance to pause and collect your thoughts -- not quite. Tune number four is the furious "Angel Killer" by Holy Terrors. A startling contrast to what goes before, a blistering performance not unexpected from a band that soars in the live setting.

And all that's just the beginning.
The fact that this is a live compilation is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, it proves that sound quality need not be sacrificed for such undertakings. Thanks to the work of too many people to list here -- when you buy it you can read the credits -- the tape raises live-recording standards. The sucker sounds great.

For another thing, the liveness allows moments to be included, like Cell 63 singer Rob Coe's intro -- "Aaahhhh. God I need some fucking coffee!" -- to the searing "Society Shoes." That track was recorded at about 3:30 a.m., Coe recalls.

We could go on and on about moments -- the way Foreign Affairs hooks you like a fish with "Stop" or how No One's Son torches the joint with "Suicide Sister," or.... But you're about to rush out and purchase this product anyway, so let's not give away too many secrets.

Instead, we'll just note the cool cover art by Greg Reinel (whose Nicoteens contribute the rave-up "Wild, Wild, Wild" as well). And we'll also affirm producer Doc Wiley's success in achieving the recording's goal: "It's like if you were to come to the Square," he says. "You get the best of every night -- a true cross look at what goes on at the club." What goes on at the club is rock and roll at its live best.


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