Over a year since the first installment, I am finally attempting another Classic Cleveland. I realize how totally self centered I am by choosing only records that really had an impact on me. No one probably gave a shit about the Stepsister record that I had as the almighty first Classic Cleveland but it was the whole world to me for six months or so when I was 22. So, it is with a tear in the eye that I walk down memory lane again in tune to the soundtrack of my mid twenties : Disengage.
Obsessions Become Phobias
Man’s Ruin Records
Fuck me. This record was a total slayer. Top to bottom, front to back, Disengage made a record that fit the Cleveland landscape of the time like a fucking glove. The churning guitar parts tearing up the rust belt and spitting it out onto the floor of the old Grog. I’ll never forget watching Jason throw the microphone out to unsuspecting fans, often knocking them for a loop or busting their shit open in time with the drums. Sean pounding away at the bass like he was pummeling some wingnut from the east side.
Spine of Teeth opens up the record like a hit off of a passed pipe, the initial rolling rhythm leading a battalion of scummy Cleveland drunks into battle. Front-duder Jason Byers leads the charge with a motivational speech of strange descriptions of how he’s coiled and shit like that. Do you know what he means by that? I still don’t but it sounds like some heavy shit is going down and it’s all really strange.
Every Sunday was and is still the ultimate Disengage anthem. This was where the kids went ape shit and a lot of teeth probably got knocked onto the floor by that airborne microphone. It’s also the weirdest shit they ever wrote. ‘Sunday is now primate pride day!’ I’ve never seen another Cle band that was able to get hundreds of people to chant something as spacey as that. ‘Kiss me, I’m Spider Monkey.’???? What?
And don’t forget the amazing ‘Burn Detroit Down!’ chant in Angels Night Cleveland’s answer to all that is Midwestern.
The whole machine is well oiled but the mechanic at large has got to be drummer Jonathan Morgan. Good thing you can’t go to jail for rape when it’s the drums your giving it to. Just listen to the slow burning build up to Every Sunday. Wait for it. Yeah, there’s that crushing refrain, the one that used to make dozens and dozens of heads bang wherever they were playing… Rock Hall or busted basement.
Tyrants Blues continues the bizarre ape-man theme but forget it and listen to those gnarly riffs and the happy-go-lucky vocals. It’s a look at what stoner rock would evolve into years later with bands like Torche making metal positive and evil at the same time.
Unfortunately some of the songs take on a Headbangers/120 Minutes tone, like Exhaust which does nothing but slow down what was becoming the musical equivalent to a key bump of speed.
Nine Lives A Day and Tarantella continue to push the record further into a frenzy of rough guitar riffs and weirdo lyrics, cementing this CD as the frosted tundra of the Flats official soundtrack. Tarantella serves as the perfect ‘fuck you’ song to some broad that gave you the shaft. “Spider crawled across the bread, Could have bit me I would not know.” Somehow that is forever brutal to me and the following cry of ‘Not trying to please you this time’ is the proper fuck off to every relationship.
Promise Keeper begins with Morgan enticing us into their fucked up web with a throbbing drum beat followed by some eerie (or should I say Lake Erie??? What about it?) guitar strumming. Something about ‘gang rape’ in the lyrics. More brutal strumming and then we get pounded into the frozen sand with a vicious refrain. Grew A Tail brings more smiling vocals about fucked up shit and guitar work that comes at you like a repeated hit and run with barbed wire snow chains on all four tires.
The record ends with the ripper Girl From Emphysema where Disengage really show off their hardcore chops with a sped up gem that doesn’t even have the patience to make it past the two minute mark. And it leaves you wondering if that girl did, in fact, explode. If so… that rules.