The Explosives were possibly the best of the punk/new wave bands that sprang up in Austin (centered around haunts like Club Foot, Raul’s, and the Continental Club), on the heels of the city’s progressive country movement and a few years behind punk pioneers like the Ramones and Sex Pistols. Formed in 1978, they were history by ’83. During their brief existence they also served as backup band for Texas legend Roky Erickson, leaving behind one vinyl LP and a few of EPs and singles – which quickly became collectors items.
At long last, the group’s 7″ output, along with demos that sound just as pristine, has been released on CD, with a second disc of never-issued live recordings, including a complete set from a 1980 Continental show. The trio of guitarist Cam King, bassist Sonny Collie, and drummer Freddie Krc (pronounced kirch) featured all three on lead vocals and, more important, writing nearly 100 percent of the group’s material (there’s one cover – Paul Revere & the Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out” – among this package’s 49 songs). They officially list ’60s stars like the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, and fellow Texans the Sir Douglas Quintet and Bobby Fuller Four as influences, but recycled through their skinny ties and multi-colored hair, the result often resembles the “power pop” end of the early-’80s spectrum – roots-aware acts like Rockpile and Marshall Crenshaw – although they sometimes cop more of a Ramones or early Costello attitude. “Sellin’ Out” recalls early Joe Jackson, while “Headhunter” is a Ventures-like instrumental, albeit a tad more aggressive.
What’s amazing is that the three singer/songwriters meld into one cohesive group identity, regardless of a particular song’s singer or composer, and that identity holds its own today with pretty much anyone you can name from that era. The studio disc sounds like a collection of hook-filled greatest hits that somehow escaped notice, while the live show reveals one hell of a tight band.
Krc has acquired legendary status in Austin for wearing numerous hats, often simultaneously – leader, band member, hired gun; singer, songwriter, drummer, guitarist, producer; pop, country, garage rock, psychedelic, Tex-Mex, and much more. Thankfully, he and King have reformed the Explosives and played several shows recently (including a short set backing Erickson at SXSW), sounding as good as ever. If you missed them the first time around, don’t let them slip by again; as its title warns, this release is a blast.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.