Graded on a Curve:
Von Lmo,
Future Language

Futurists, extraterrestrials, and fans of the NASA space program pay heed–Von Lmo is calling!

Never heard of him–or the band that bears his name–you say? Well, that’s because Mr. Lmo split our planet for good sometime in the late nineties for greener pastures in the Ork Nebula, and isn’t the kind of guy who writes letters. And even if he were, the Intergalactic Postal Service sucks.

But lucky for us Von Lmo–who sometimes said he was born in Brooklyn to Sicilian parents, and sometimes claimed to be an emigre from the planet Strazar–left behind some really fabulous no-wave-tinged space rock, much of it to be found on his 1981 debut Future Language. If your idea of cool is a slew of hard-driving songs featuring lots of great fuzz guitar and savage sax skronk, Future Language is a must-own that makes Devo sound like a buncha new wave lightweights.

Von Lmo’s champions over the years have included the critic Chuck Eddy, musician and psychedelic rock archivist Julian Cope (of course), and Alan Vega of Suicide, who saw Von Lmo do his thing at Max’s Kansas City and concluded, “I was afraid to be in the same room with him.” It doesn’t pay to be alone with an extraterrestrial.

And Von Lmo deserves its champions because Future Language is a lost classic and real space oddity. Imagine an unholy fusion of Pere Ubu, Krautrock, and Steppenwolf, toss in some Iggy and the Stooges and a dash of Fear, and what you have is a great post-punk record that sounds like no other post-punk record under the Strazarian Sun.

The first thing you should know about Von Lmo the band is that they’re heavy–they play a species of post-punk that sings in its chains like the sea. I was expecting some razor-thin New Wave, but what I got is a big, spastic rumble, and 10 heavier than heaven space jams for people who like their riffs big and their bottom even bigger.

As a band, Von Lmo sticks to the fundamentals and then dresses them up–Mike Gee swoops and shreds on guitar and never plays a commonplace thing, while saxophonist Juno Saturn alternates between playing in between the lines and letting his interplanetary freak flag fly. As for Von Lmo himself, he channels all kinds of voices–Jello Biafra here, Lee Ving there, a rockabilly star for the entire Milky Way when the urge strikes him. But he’s always intense, and it’s obvious he takes his job as an ambassador to Earth very seriously indeed.

Not one of Future Language’s songs drags; propulsion is everything when it comes to traveling light years, and Strazar isn’t exactly next door. “Crash Landing 8.8” trips along like a rocketship and works wonderfully thanks to some truly demented guitar work by Gee and Saturn’s sax blurt; “This Is Pop Rock” ain’t, and succeeds on Gee’s spazz guitar and Von Lmo’s Strazarian tremolo. And Saturn provides great punctuation on sax throughout.

On the very spacey title track the band delivers an ancient message and sounds a lot like a speeded-up Black Sabbath with Greg Ginn on guitar; as for Lmo himself, he alternates between a Jello Biafra warble and a Handsome Dick Manitoba roar. “Outside of Time” is the greatest “Born to Be Wild” rip you ever will hear; Von Lmo sings about the Sea of Tranquillity while Gee goes off the reservation and Saturn does a damn good impression of Flipper’s “Sex Bomb Baby.” A must hear, boys and girls.

“Radio World” boasts lots of farting sax and sees Von Lmo name-dropping “Coney Island Baby”; it’s a radio world, sings our favorite spaceman, and all you have to do is tune in on your red transistor. Its groove is groovy, and Von Lmo himself splits the difference between metal bellowing and ululating rockabilly star. “Fire Eyes” has Von Lmo smelling smoke and puts Saturn up front, and boasts a guitar solo so far freaking out you’ll want to pack in your space suitcase on your next trip to Jupiter.

“Leave Your Body” is a galloping speed romp and comes complete with instructions: Leave your body, then jump back in, and see what you find. Finders keepers! “Ultra Violet Light” is a primo chunk of space junk; Saturn plays like the alien half-brother of Iggy and the Stooges’ Steve Mackay, and come to think of it this baby wouldn’t sound all that out of place on Fun House.

Von Lmo traveled a helluva long way to deliver his message (it’s right there on the cover: “Advance Yourself!”) to us earthlings, and probably had to stop at a whole lot of gas stations while he was at it. Unfortunately the world failed to bite, and we’re all the poorer for it. Luckily, you can still find Future Language and the band’s two subsequent releases at used record stores across the Milky Way, so it’s not too late to heed Von Lmo’s Strazarian siren call. If you’re a fan of heavy mayhem, you’ll be glad you did.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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