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Live Skull

Inspired by the likes of Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth, and the New York no wave movement, Live Skull delivered the kind of relentlessly bleak, abrasive noise rock that made their better-known contemporaries Lydia Lunch and Swans into underground cult figures during the '80s. The band favored a crushingly loud guitar-based grind, sometimes creeping and sometimes bounding, while they tempered their assault with sophisticated, arty arrangements and thick, hypnotic sheets of pulsating noise. Their subject matter was invariably dark and downcast, though not as deliberately shocking as some of their even more confrontational peers. 1986's Cloud One was where the group's corrosive approach began to jell properly, and the arrival of Thalia Zedek on guitar and vocals with the release of 1987's Dusted helped set the stage for their best album, 1989's Positraction. Live Skull broke their retirement with 2019's Saturday Night Massacre, which revealed their bleak vision was as clear as ever. Formed by guitarists and bandleaders Mark C. and Tom Paine in New York in 1983, Live Skull's initial lineup also featured bassist Marnie Greenholz and drummer James Lo, while singer Julie Hair and percussionist Dan Braun were also part of early performances. Live Skull's early output -- a self-titled 1984 EP and two studio albums for indie notable Homestead Records, 1985's Bringing Home the Bait and 1986's Cloud One -- tended to de-emphasize vocals in favor of layers of noise. However, the arrival of vocalist Thalia Zedek gave the band a new spark and focal point; even if their sound was as uncompromising as before, she gave the music a gritty yet human personality that better engaged listeners. Zedek debuted on 1987's well-received Dusted, along with new drummer Rich Hutchins. A move to Caroline Records preceded the 1988 EP Snuffer and 1989's full-length Positraction, the band's most accessible, song-oriented effort. Positraction also featured bassist Sonda Andersson, who took over from Marnie Greenholz. Her time in Live Skull proved to be short; their inability to expand their audience beyond a cult following led to the group breaking up in 1990. Following the band's split, Thalia Zedek moved back to Boston and formed the acclaimed, blues-flavored Come and later went on to a solo career. James Lo later resurfaced with the equally acclaimed math rockers Chavez. In 2016, producer, engineer, and musician Martin Bisi, who had worked on most of Live Skull's recordings, invited members of the group to take part in a series of sessions to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Bisi's recording space, BC Studio. Mark C., Marnie Jaffe (formerly Marnie Greenholz), and Rich Hutchins took Bisi up on the offer, and Live Skull officially reunited in 2019, featuring Mark C. and Rich Hutchins as well as new participants Dave Hollinghurst (guitar) and Kent Heine (bass). The band went into the studio to record a comeback album, and Saturday Night Massacre was released in November 2019; Marnie Jaffe and Thalia Zedek made guest appearances on the sessions. Little more than a year later, Live Skull re-emerged with Dangerous Visions, which combined newly recorded material with rare tracks from the late 1980s.
© Steve Huey & Mark Deming /TiVo
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Discography

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