I Got It On Tape #1 – Trotsky Icepick

You want it
I’ve got it
I’m talkin’ about everything
On tape

Teenage Gang Debs cover of The Pooh Sticks “On Tape” from the 1993 Matador Records release Teenbeat 50.

Now you might be wondering what the Teenage Gang Debs have to do with Trotsky Icepick. Nothing really… but if your “record” collection is anything like mine it’s a hodge-podge of formats: lps, 45s, cassettes and cds. 8 tracks anyone? With at least 1000 tapes I thought the time had arrived to begin ripping them all. For no particular reason Trotsky Icepick kicks off, for the time being, a some what irregular series of posts in which everything was ripped from tape. Hope you enjoy it.

Don’t worry I haven’t run out of cds.

All tapes ripped with dBpowerAMP and encoded with LAME 3.93.

Trotsky Icepick

Post punk band Trotsky Icepick was formed in 1986 by ex-100 Flowers guitarist/singer Kjehl Johansen; ex-Last keyboardist/guitarist/singer Vitus Mataré and ex-Last drummer John Frank following the demise of their respective Los Angeles punk groups. The group took it’s name from the murder weapon used to kill exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

Recording under the name Danny and the Doorknobs the band first release, Poison Summer, was released in 1986. “Village Voice” music critic Robert Christgau review of the album noted that they were

“Not a hardcore band (name’s too educated) or an art band either (too politically charged). A pop band if anything, firming up a lyricism that wouldn’t have sounded out of place at the Fillmore in 1967 with compact structures, foreshortened solos, and a drummer from the (metaphorical) East Bay.”

By the time Poison Summer was re-released on SST Records the band had changed it’s name to Trotsky Icepick and had added keyboard player Jamie Lennon. Where the previous Poison Summer had a featured a raw live sound, this new version with it’s layered harmonies and guitars and Lennon’s jazzy touches is a beautifully subtle product of the studio.

“on Poison Summer Trotsky Icepick hit a balance between drive and delicacy that is rare in pop music at any time and was extraordinary in a band which came from the L.A. punk scene.”

For Baby, released in 1988, Johansen and Mataré dispense with the keyboards and add ex-Leaving Trains drummer Jason Kahn and ex-Last bassist/guitarist John Rosewell. The result is a louder, thicker rock album that features songs about Robitussin, lost loves and hating Barry Manilow.

1989s El Kabong featured a new vocalist, John Talley-Jones, and drummer, Hunter Crowley and displayed a simpler, harder-rocking sound; but except for “Cornfield” with its harmonies by Talley-Jones and Vitus Mataré and its unusual melody line, and bassist John Rosewall’s lyrical contribution “Unbuttoned” there are few tracks that display the potential of the new lineup.

1991s The Ultraviolet Catastrophe finds the group returning to the lighter art pop touchs of Poison Summer. To add extra texture to their songs the group brought in guest musicians (X’s D.J. Bonebrake plays marimba on “Q.E.D.”) on instruments like cello, accordion, and Chapman stick. Along with covers of the Monochrome Set’s “Alphaville” and Television’s “Venus” the group’s penchant for oddball songs is evident with songs about horror stars, “Barbara Steele” and super heroes, “The Martian Manhunter”.

Following the release of the Ultraviolet Catastrophe Rosewell and Crowley left the group and were replaced by Middle Class bassist Mike Patton and drummer John Glogovac. Along with the obligatory clown song, “Hate Clown”, the songs on 1992s Carpetbomb The Riff cover a spectrum of topics that include politics, “Invisible Politicians,” and religion, “There Goes Salvation”.

Hot Pop Hello, a compilation of leftovers, which frankly states on the back of the cd

“any semblance of a commercially viable product is strictly coincidental and not intended.”

proves to be one of their best albums. This album of spiky ditties covers topics that range as far-a-field as The Beach Boys, “Father Murry’s Glass Eye” to Paraguay, “Oh, General”.


Singles and Full-Lengths

Poison Summer (LP) (Old Scratch) 1986
Baby (CD, Album) (SST Records) 1988
Danny And The Doorknobs (LP) (SST Records) 1989
Danny And The Doorknobs (CD, Album) (SST Records) 1989
El Kabong (LP, W/Lbl) (SST Records) 1989
El Kabong (CD, Album) (SST Records) 1989
Poison Summer (CD) (SST Records) 1989
The Ultraviolet Catastrophe (CD, Cass) (SST Records) 1991
Carpetbomb The Riff (CD, Cass) (SST Records) 1992
Hot Pop Hello (CD) (SST Records) 1994
“I’m Stranded/This Perfect Day” Trotsky Icepick/Vena Cava (7″ Split) (Calamari, Happy Squid)

Tracks Appear On:

“The Light Pours Out Of Me” Duck And Cover (LP) (SST Records) 1990
“This Car Is Not Blue” Viva Los Angeles II (CD) (Viva Records) 1990
“(I’m) Stranded” Neurotically Yours – A Tribute To The Saints (CD, Album) (Smiling Weasel Music, Still Sane Records) 1993

Poison Summer

Playing Time: 37 minutes 51 seconds

Trotsky Icepick-Poison Summer

1. The Gaslight (3:07)
2. The Commissioner (3:05)
3. Nightingale Drive (2:20)
4. Big Dreams (4:04)
5. Just The End Of The World (2:55)
6. Drawing Fire (3:18)
7. Clowns On Fire (3:27)
8. Clown On Fire (Version) (0:57)
9. Hit Parade (3:36)
10. Ivory Tour (3:11)
11. You Look Like Something Goya Drew (7:51)

Buy Poison Summer from Happy Squid Records

El Kabong

Playing Time: 34 minutes 42 seconds

Trotsky Icepick-El Kabong

1. The Conveniences Of Life (4:13)
2. The Light Pours Out Of Me (2:48)
3. Yolanda Won’t You Give Me A Job (2:59)
4. Cornfield (4:47)
5. 106° (2:35)
6. Unbuttoned (2:49)
7. Astronomer (3:53)
8. El Kabong (3:33)
9. Long Grey Baggy Soul (2:45)
10. Hotel (2:24)
11. Say Goodnight (1:56)

Buy El Kabong from Happy Squid Records

The Ultraviolet Catastrophe

Playing Time: 43 minutes 56 seconds

Trotsky Icepick-The Ultraviolet Catastrophe

1. The Ultraviolet Catastrophe (4:03)
2. Alphaville (3:09)
3. The Thing Under The Couch (3:30)
4. WDBS (4:04)
5. Barbara Steele (3:51)
6. Boy W/Book (3:49)
7. God Without A Compass (4:04)
8. Venus De Milo (3:52)
9. Pestilence (3:57)
10. August August (2:58)
11. The Martian Manhunter (4:09)
12. Q.E.D (2:30)

Buy The Ultraviolet Catastrophe from Happy Squid Records

Carpetbomb The Riff

Playing Time: 42 minutes 12 seconds

Trotsky Icepick-Carpetbomb The Riff

1. Imaging Neptune (3:42)
2. Invisible Politicians (3:12)
3. Bad Girls Go To Hell (3:18)
4. Home Surgery (3:06)
5. Swallowing Tongues (4:34)
6. Local 63 (2:55)
7. There Goes Salvation (3:47)
8. Hate Clown (3:15)
9. Shaken (2:33)
10. (Kinda Like The) Berlin Wall (3:39)
11. 1000 Points Of Light (4:23)
12. Mr. Caution’s Funeral (3:48)

Buy Carpetbomb the Riff from Happy Squid Records


4 responses to “I Got It On Tape #1 – Trotsky Icepick

  1. First of all, I love your blog. It has reintroduced me to a lot bands I’d forgotten about.
    That said, any chance of featuring the Teenbeat 50 compilation you mentioned at the top of this post, or even just that Teenage Gang Debs track?
    I used to own it, but sold it off during an poorly though out period where I was getting rid of CDs I felt i didn’t listen to enough. I’ve regretted a lot of those sales since. In fact, I discovered this blog while trying to find the first Seam album (for which I thank you.)

  2. The Poison Summer CD you have up there is missing “Set Still the Time” from the file list as well as the tracklist.

  3. Just to set the record straight regarding the version of Poison Summer posted here.

    The version I posted is the cassette version released by SST in 1986. The CD version of Poison Summer released by SST Records in 1994 contains two more songs then the tape version. Those two additional songs are “Set Still the Time” (#7 on the disc) and “Temporary Faith Rangers” (#13 on the disc).

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