Review - Strange Men Bearing Gifts

Artist: Cargo Cult

Thanks to its genesis during the heady days of Austin's legendary '80s punk scene, Cargo Cult has always been a band referred to but seldom heard, unlike other local notables like the Dicks or Scratch Acid. Founded by vocalist Randy "Biscuit" Turner (after he broke up the legendary Big Boys) and counting guitarist Duane Dennison (who would go on to form the Jesus Lizard with fellow Austin misfits David Yow and David Simms) as a member, Cargo Cult released only one album during their one-year existence. And, as one of the first albums in Touch and Go's catalog (this is Touch and Go #10), "Strange Men Bearing Gifts" has been largely unavailable since its release in 1986. Listening to it now, it's easy to see why. Profoundly dated by its goth-punk overtones (there are a few uncomfortably Siouxsie-ish moments) and burdened by a ridiculously nonironic cover of "Slippin' Into Darkness," there's little that makes this album notable other than its lineup. Patchy atmospherics and sloppy, pulp-lyrical imagery show a band attempting something "unusual." In the same way that Skin Yard was a creepy exception to grunge, Cargo Cult certainly offered a different take on Texas post-punk. Even for a city as wild-eyed as Austin, once you (finally) hear how badly the band executed their ideas, it's not hard to understand why the Cargo Cult's tenure was so brief.

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