Released in 1990, this CD gathers together the first two EPs that this delicious American band released. The first one was entitled “Human Conflict Number 5” (1982) whereas the second went by the name of “Secrets Of The I Ching” (1983).
“Human Conflict Number 5” features a studio drummer named Jim Foti, whilst “Secrets Of The I Ching” marks Jerry’s debut as the Maniacs drummer, and his contribution does not go unnoticed. Both EPs also featured founding member John Lombardo, who set to music two poems from the doomed World War I poet Wilfred Owen. He even takes the lead in one of these (“Anthem For Doomed Youth”, one of Owen’s most anthologized pieces, and one of the album’s highlights as well).
The tracks from the two EPs are interspersed, and they do feel like an item. The songs that feature Jerome on drums do stand out a little, though – he works some fantastic grooves, and his drum kit is the instrument that opens fire in several occasions.
Natalie has yet to come with her defining voice, and I must admit that the first two times I listened to the album I was a little grated in certain spots. However, her writing skills are already in evidence – she displays not only enthusiasm but also panache, two characteristics of her entire tenure with the band.
When these elements coalesce into a song, we have the one truly memorable cut of the album: “My Mother The War”. In fact, that was the song that got them “discovered” and as such it has immense value for fans (note that it is included on the “Campfire Songs” anthology as well, and deservedly so).
There are also a couple of tracks such as “Grey Victory” and “Orange” that denote the Maniacs’ sound was already manifesting itself. On a side note, there are three reggae (!!!) numbers that are actually quite enjoyable. The best one to me is the aforementioned song/poem where John Lombardo assumes vocal duties.
The album should be taken as a document chronicling their first steps as recording musicians. It is meant for fans, and for completist ones at that – if you are new to the band do not get near this album. And if you are already acquainted with their work, do not buy it expecting another “In My Tribe” – you will be sorely disappointed. I can not give it a high rating because it is not really something anybody would listen to frequently, not even die-hards (I know because I am one). But I feel we should be thankful we have access to such a document officially, and that it has been assembled so caringly.