Only longtime and well-connected west coast punks—and any lucky dirtbags, cowboy hat goths, and broken-down romantics who have passed through the sagebrush hills and smoky casino bars of Reno, Nevada sometime in the last decade—know Spitting Image. Unless you heard them on a few small run cassette tapes or 7" records with cryptic art and far-out distortion, or at a party they ritually summon to any warehouse, parking lot, basement, or Great Basin lake shore they can find, you didn’t. But thanks to Slovenly Recordings, who share a hometown with the band and have sought out the finest and grimiest punk sounds from every corner of the globe, the rest of the world at last receives a report back from these scuzz punk art freaks on their deep trip, deep in the desert: Full Sun.
And it’s dark, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad trip. Donovan Williams’ merciless drumbeats drive downstroke rippers like “Devils Bloom” and “Still Thing,” and tracks like “Broadcast” and “Plea Dealer” play up the conversation between Jack Scribner’s beating-heart bass and Julian Jacobs’ alternately schizophrenic and soaring guitar. The 12 poems that make up this record pull together the stranger fringes of the ‘80s wave—Wipers, Gun Club, Sonic Youth, Television, early Siouxsie—with basement hardcore and hints of krautrock, psych, and industrial that show the band’s “fascination with repetition, patterns, transposing things and ideas into new contexts.” These sounds aren’t genre conventions to mash up and reference; they’re tools to express a razor sharp focus on the bliss and insight found in the periphery, the underbelly, the “places of edges,” feelings that are fleeting and serendipitous, but indisputable and eternal once felt. Austin Pratt’s zen lyricism finds unity in opposites: "full sun / humming in wisdom" and "full shade / resting in peace" all at once. The discarded casino chips glowing under faded, disorienting neon lights, and the otherworld fossils disintegrating under the relentless desert sun: now remember they’re the same thing, and you’re getting it.
Spitting Image have performed with Iceage, Ceremony, and Spiritual Cramp, and their project will make intuitive sense to fans of bands like The Men, Gun Outfit, and Protomartyr. What separates Spitting Image from their contemporaries, however, is the sound of the desert—spacious, sweltering, and shimmering on their debut LP. When mirrored glasses and a broad hat aren't enough and you squint through the white afternoon dust in the breeze—that's Full Sun. When the wildflower jewels that can't be pawned force their way through the calcified crust to sing their "lust song with the earth"—that's Full Sun. When the fucking riff kicks in, that's Full fucking Sun.