In Vinyl Retentive, A.V. Clubbers share what we find while crate-digging in our own houses.

The Locust/Arab On Radar

GSL, 1999

Format: 7-inch split EP

File Under: Transcontinental spazz-core seizure

Key tracks:

The Locust, "Get Off The Cross, The Wood Is Needed"

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Arab On Radar, "Piggin' In The Pumpkin Patch"

Jesus Christ, who are these short little fuckers? Of course, I knew exactly who they were: The Locust, the San Diego band I'd just booked to play the warehouse in downtown Denver that, a few months before, I'd lived in. I'd moved out of the place after putting on shows there for about a year–a long, long year during which Jimmy Eat World, Texas Is The Reason, The Promise Ring, Mineral, Still Life, Knapsack, Sense Field, and many more played. This was around 1997, back before all those bands either blew up or faded into even deeper obscurity. The winds of the scene seemed to be shifting by '98, though. That earnest, melodic, Sunny Day Real Estate kind of emo suddenly wasn't so cool anymore. The Locust was.

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Don't get me wrong–I bear no ill will toward The Locust. In fact, I've loved the fuck out of them since the day they slithered into my ear canal and down my spinal cord. After all, it wasn't like I hadn't happily booked plenty of abrasive bands at the warehouse during my tenure there, including everyone from Unwound to The Crownhate Ruin to The VSS. But The Locust took post-hardcore to an extreme I didn't even know existed.

So yeah, The Locust circa 1998 were these tiny guys with huge hair and tight pants who pumped out ungodly robot farts and screamed like someone was gouging out their gonads with grapefruit spoons. If that makes you want to kill them, so be it. Just remember there was no emo nation (as we know it today) back then–just an underground tribe of loosely affiliated misfits and stridently DIY types. Granted, that's probably almost as insufferable. But at least there wasn't such a thing as Hot Topic or Christian metalcore or dickheads called Forever The Sickest Kids. And did I mention that The Locust dressed up in cyborg jumpsuits and insect masks when they played? Sweet.

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The Locust, if I remember correctly, blew out the warehouse's power that night. It's not hard to see why. Wired into piles of synthesizers and effects pedals, and summoning some form of sci-fi grindcore Ragnarök, the band killed. I got to see them a couple more times over the next few years–including in the middle of a hot summer day in a small upstairs bar in Fort Collins, Colorado, where some kids lit smoke bombs about two minutes (i.e. seven songs) into The Locust's set. Around that time I picked up their split 7-inch with a relatively new band I hadn't heard yet: Arab On Radar.

Yes, the above photo is of the vinyl itself. That distorted slab of white wax must be a quarter-inch thick–seriously, you could use it as a tea saucer or a saw blade or something. That level of packaging acumen was a trademark of The Locust: This was, after all, the first band I ever saw sell belt buckles of itself, which was a slap in the face to the puritanically anti-rockstar emo scene of the time. Arab On Radar, though, was the record's x-factor. I mean, they were from Providence, for fuck's sake–my only slim frame of reference was fellow Rhode Island bands Six Finger Satellite and Lightning Bolt (which wound up being a pretty helpful one). Arab On Radar's side of the split EP, turns out, was just as incredible as The Locust's. But where The Locust was conceptually prankish and acutely meta, Arab On Radar was organic, sinewy, surreal. Or, for lack of a better analogy: The Locust played Zappa to Arab's Beefheart.

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I got to see Arab On Radar in Denver's dingy, stinky, now sadly bulldozed 15th St. Tavern around 2001. They didn't play. They didn't perform. They just kinda… imploded. With their amps on. While finger-banging their guitars and convulsing like burn victims. Imagine one of those time-lapse films of, I dunno, a colony of ants stripping a deer skull clean–in other words, a month's worth of elegant brutality and necrotic decay sped up and shoehorned into a few minutes. Only played backwards. Make that sideways. Like U.S. Maple's runty little cousin, Arab On Radar's avant-gargling wasn't some dry exercise in "playing the spaces between notes." They clogged those spaces, distended them, poked them inside out. I've seen plenty of discordant bands and enjoyed lots of annoying records over the years–but there will always be a special place in my heart (and a soft spot in my brain) reserved for this one-two cockpunch of transcendental retardation.

Current whereabouts: The Locust? Motherfuckers ought to change their name to The Cockroach. Despite the fact that all the thousands of bands that ripped them off over the last dozen years are already laughably obsolete (Genghis Tron notwithstanding), The Locust is still at it. Masks and all. Now signed to Anti- Records–where they're part of a small roster that includes Tom Waits and Nick Cave–they've even attained a weird kind of respectability. This is despite the fact that they'll forever be associated with screamo, although The Locust long ago rose above that tag by doing it better and weirder than anyone. Arab On Radar, unfortunately, didn't have The Locust's tenacious longevity, but members of the group are now assaulting logic in the pretty damn decent The Chinese Stars.

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Availability: Given its extravagant format (and, well, the fact that GSL is out of business), it's a safe bet that The Locust/Arab On Radar split 7-inch will never be pressed again. Copies–some on white vinyl, some on red, some on green–currently go for less than 10 bucks on the Internet, although it's easy to imagine that changing in the future when the inevitable '90s revival kicks in. That is, if anyone remembers what a record is. All The Locust's tracks from the 7-inch can be found on the Flight Of The Wounded Locust CD, and all of Arab On Radar's appear on a disc titled The Stolen Singles. And they're all available as downloads.