After missing from the public ear for some years now (originally a CD compilation released on Big Blue Records in 2007), this collection of uptempo numbers again sees the light of day in the form of a vinyl release. For many familiar with Venus Fly Trap, this is a representative selection of their past and present work – with panoramic quality to the songs, at times psychedelic and pastoral, and at times darkly energetic. Personally, I missed my homework back in the day – the name probably rang a bell on many occasions. From the now point of view, I can say some of these songs did age well, its smell of motor oil and electronic fuse to light the fire. And while the drawback of listening to it now may be in the slight feel Venus Fly Trap looked up to every relevant name of the time in order to start their own band, their music maintains the ingenuity despite the cheapness factor lurking from the group’s more recent material.
The first half of the album definitely fares better, the vocals less pretentious and effortlessly fitting into these songs, while the newer material marks an audible shift – logical yes, but in creative terms not always clicking for the better. Earlier numbers appeal more for their raw naivety – for one, there is an interesting crosslink between VFT and Borghesia (“Desolation Railway” and “No Hope No Fear” must have had an accidental streak at the time) – “Europa” on the other hand is a strange beast, aiming at heavy-metal, while in parallel echoing bits of In the Nursery, while it may also be viewed as a great number Jaz Coleman never wrote. “Achilles Heel” again offers a nice energetic reflection to a certain “Love Like Blood” with traces of shockabilly sound of The Cramps (whose song the group also happen to have covered, included here as well). And of course, there is a Suicide classic revisited to nice effect – “Rocket USA” which in a way resembles the best of early Sisters and say, Jim Thirlwell, whose hungry ghost rocks and rolls all over this particular reinterpretation – a perfect blend of screaming guitars, edgy horns and vocals rambling from an echoing tube.
As for the group’s later material, “Moscow Managerie” is a song that echoes Ministry – “Stigmata” blueprint without the latter’s established brutality although offering a vision of how early Ministry might have sounded with the addictive guitar hook. “Pulp Sister” and “Gemini Lounge” (an extra track on this edition) kind-of replicate the vibe of the earlier VFT but at times sounding a bit sterile and unconvincing. “Metropolis” kicks off with a pulsating synth-riff that gives the impression of something more potently ambient (only slightly recalling the Krautrock landscape) but very quickly dissolving into a drum-and-bass-ish uptempo number that rides its dangerous line between electroclash and aggro-tech worlds (sadly veering more towards the latter, with its forced dark atmosphere). “Mercury” is an interesting uptempo dance number with techno-leanings but again dangerously close to the trancy abyss of the so-called future pop. “Human Fly” is the weakest track here, a sadly disposable update of The Cramps’ masterpiece; the guitar riff at the very start of the song is promising though, but instead of sliding back into a potentially rawer number, it chooses to be its own parody. “Penny Black” is a nice return to form, but genre-wise just as confusing a pisstake, placed at the compilation’s tail end, echoing (or mocking thereof?) The Stranglers – or even R.E.M.
In all, you get one half of the compilation album that is worth attention and one half that shows promise but is enslaved to the zeitgeist.