Punk Planet
Issue No. 68
Summer 2005

Magnolia Thunderpussy - Starin' Down the Sun, CD

This is the kind of CD that makes me happy I write for Punk Planet. In it's day (mid-'80s), it would probably be considered punk, but it's a whole lot more. This is not just another three-chord punk band. It alternates between pretty melodies, discordant punk and jerky funk that recalls the Minutemen. The band can play beautiful jazz interludes without sounding like they're wanking. Overall, it seems like the band covered so much ground that it's hard to classify them. - Jason Gooder

Self-released, PO Box 661437 Los Angeles, CA 90066,  

Delusions of Adequacy
June 10, 2005

Pick of the Week: Magnolia Thunderpussy - Starin' Down the Sun
"A re-issue from these mid-80s SoCal legends sounds just as fresh 20 years later."

Remember the scene in High Fidelity when Jack Black and Co. finally listen to the music by their local klepto skate-punks? It’s priceless. Black sort of rolls his eyes, puts a hand to his forehead, and mutters, "It’s really ... it’s really fuckin’ good."

I had a similar reaction upon hearing Magnolia Thunderpussy’s Starin’ Down the Sun, a combination studio/live recording from 1985 that’s taken 20 years to resurface. Honestly, I’m glad it did, because it’s one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard in a while. MTP falls very much in the vein of proto-punk groups like the Minutemen, but the band's ability to switch from genre-to-genre — often within the same song — is astonishing. Folk, hardcore, Deadhead mini-jams: they’re all here, and they all rock.

What’s even more remarkable is the fact that Starin’ was recorded when MTP’s members were still in high school. (Actually, the studio time itself was a graduation gift from one of their parents.) So when you listen to a beautiful alt-country ditty like "Circle," which concludes with the heartbreaking lyric, "With blinded eyes my fate apprised / A broken soul is my lament," you know you’re in the presence of something precocious.

Unfortunately, Starin’ Down the Sun is the only album Magnolia Thunderpussy ever made, giving the band a kind of folkloric status amongst its fellow musicians. (Thurston Moore, for one, is quoted in the disc’s liner notes as saying MTP "should'a been massive.") But the group has decided to continue its story, reuniting this summer for a small West Coast tour. Personally, I can’t wait. ‘Cause in the words of Jack Black, MTP is really … well, you know.  - Jeremy Adams

Issue No. 26

Magnolia Thunderpussy: Starin down the Sun
Mar Vista Records

(Review #1)

From the vaults of obscurity comes this unearthed treasure. Magnolia Thunderpussy were a bunch of L.A. teenagers that were tight with Black Flag and Flea back in the mid-1980s. SST label head Greg Ginn was interested in putting out a record by the group but for some reason it never happened. By 1986 the band was kaput. Bassist David Jones decided to "unleash the fury" from the vault in 2004. Split between eleven studio tracks and a live beach show the next day, Starin’ Down the Sun shows the band's dexterity. Guitarist Chris Hundley alternates between jazzy passages and full-on shredding. Pat Palma's drums are maniacal but precise at the same time. Bassist Jones holds all the songs together with some fluid bass lines throughout. Lead singer Dale Nixon's vocals show a remarkable maturity at age seventeen. I bet you're thinking you've heard this singer's name before? Although the CD's liner notes could choke an elephant with all the name-dropping quotes, there's no mention of the "Dale Nixon factor." Greg Ginn used this alias on Black Flag's My War record after Chuck Dukowski bolted. This moniker has since been copped anytime an enterprising musician had wanted to guest on another musician's record and had been told "no way" by the fat cats at a major label. Brian Baker and Dave Grohl have later borrowed this alias along the way. So there's your punk cred history for Magnolia Thunderpussy. But the music is what's important here, my friends. Some of the songs like, "Outside Inside," explore some free flowing jazz, while "Walls" offers up some Black Flag anger with some rage-filled vocals from Mr. Nixon. The title track reminds me of Angry Samoans without Metal Mike's angst. Like a bizarre mash-up of All, The Minutemen, and Black Flag, Magnolia Thunderpussy is an important link from the LA scene. If you see David Jones on the streets-bow down and offer praise for the release of this cool-as-shit CD. -Sean Koepenick (Mar Vista)
(Review #2)

Okay, I'm going out on a limb here, but I feel confident in saying this: THIS CD IS THE WORST PIECE OF SHIT I'VE EVER HEARD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. Long, wanky "jams" that go nowhere. Fucking horrible singing. Lame art. This CD actually made me angry. I f I had been riding in a car while listening to this, I’da thrown it out the window. Fuck this record. I f you like it, please delete me from your friend list. - Ben Snakepit (Mar Vista)

Rasputin Manifesto
March 2005

Magnolia Thunderpussy
Starin’ Down the Sun
Mar Vista Records

What a gem! The history of this obscure mid-eighties punk band, the album, and the L.A. club scene is told and unraveled in detail in their booklet. It is influenced heavily by Black Flag, X, Germs, etc. and their sound is completely of the time and the place. In 1986 they were an up and coming band in the scene, they had recorded their debut album and one bad show put them out of commission. Yet, like true musicians, they had day jobs and just waited twenty years to release their debut album and a live concert, all on the same CD. It is melodically equivalent to Fantomas, in that they can jam on for minutes on end, tightly and unlike Fantomas, they lack the noise metal sound. They are rhythmically like They Might Be Giants and Devo. Their style and attitude is completely original for example, the debut recording is very neat, due to the fact that small bands hardly have any time and money to waste time in the studio, the same song live is rough and improvised riffs pour out, yet are simple and clear there for their creativity comes from their sound. They took their time with their music, and if you are a fan of good music, you will know a good thing when you hear it. -- Clara Flores

All Music Guide, "AMG" (allmusic.com)
June 2005

Starin' Down the Sun
Magnolia Thunderpussy

Originally slated for release by SST Records in 1985, Starin Down the Sun was intended to be the debut album by southern California's Magnolia Thunderpussy, but the disc went unreleased when the band broke up. This union of live and studio material -- which harks back to the heyday of other SST outfits like the Minutemen and the Meat Puppets -- has finally seen the light of day 20 years later. Inspired and youthfully exuberant -- MTP's members were about to exit high school when this disc was recorded, and the studio time was purportedly a graduation gift from one of their parents -- these 20 numbers mesh the fury of punk ("M.A.C.H.") with the fluid vibe of jam bands ("Serendipity"). Granted, much of this material gets recycled in concert form, but one listen to the twangy immediacy of "Circle" and it's hard not to feel in awe. In the liner notes, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore proclaims "they shoulda been massive." As usual, that lanky bastard is right on the money. - John D. Luerssen

Copper Press
August 2005

Magnolia Thunderpussy
Starin' Down the SUn
Mar Vista Records

Magnolia Thunderpussy was supposed to release an album on SST back in 1985. The band seemed poised on the edge of something greater than the buzz it had created for itself on the SoCal scene. But then it broke up and these tapes languished on a dusty shelf somewhere for twenty years. Chris Hundley’s gorgeous surf-cum-punk lead lines and the driving rhythm section of David Jones (bass) and Pat Palma (drums) are the core of “Serendipity,” a tune that could have become required listening for all up-and-coming musicians had this outfit stayed together, while Chris Hundley’s occasionally disaffected surfer psychosis vocals round out this troupe’s unique sound. Features live material and a stunning booklet that takes you back to the spirit of the scene circa ’85. – Jedd Beaudoin

Anti-Music.com Network (Web Syndicated)
April 2005

Magnolia Thunderpussy - Starin' Down the Sun
Label: Mar Vista Records

As a fan of moonshine metal pioneers, Alabama Thunderpussy, I was floored to learn that there was another band sporting that rather offensive surname floating around the rock and roll cesspool.  After recovering from my initial elation at having two “Thunderpussys” in my music collection I set about experiencing Magnolia Thunderpussy and their new (and first) release, “Starin Down the Sun.”  Hailing from the same California beaches and backyards that spawned the influential Punk scene of Southern California and SST Records, MT were a well-known name at the time, but never managed, due to circumstances of every kind, to release a record in their prime in the early to mid eighties.  While contemporaries like Black Flag, Saccharine Trust and the Minute Men were engraving their names on the underground Stanley Cup, Magnolia Thunderpussy grooved along like a vaguely Punk-Rock Grateful Dead. Playing to crowds on beaches and at pool parties, MT’s influence spread to bands like Sonic Youth and the Red Hot Chili Peppers even if almost no one else heard their music for twenty years. Now, after all those years, the band has released a disc of studio tracks and a live show, both from 1985, which comprise the bands only recorded legacy.  Fans of the band rejoice, collectors pull out your wallets and let the curious be initiated.

First things first.  This is not a record that lends itself to great playability.  It’s a curiosity mostly, if a very good one.  MT was clearly a party band, and while that attitude comes across on the recordings (particularly on the live tracks which easily trump their studio versions) the sound and the overall lack of precision in the recording make it a once in while kind of experience.  The tempos are mostly pretty middling and the guitars sort of pluck along in no great hurry.  The whole conglomeration reeks of funk and a poor man’s roots music.  The vocals are closer to being spoken than sung, and the overall sound is that of a band that has not been long out of the garage.  It’s easy to imagine Fu Manchu listening to this band, or even very early Nirvana before Kurt Cobain could put it through the fuzzed out and pissed off filter.  Nowadays, they could probably open for Dave Matthews Band without a problem.  The SST sound is definitely there, even without production from Gregg Ginn or Spot, and it has that trademark, “recorded in a dirty apartment” feel to it.  MT would have been perfect for SST, they weren’t as hard or as wildly experimental as some of the other bands on the label, but they would have been at home, nonetheless, among the ranks of the Descendents and the Screaming Trees.

The package is put together very nicely in a digipack with a detailed book, filled with photos and reminiscences from the band members.  The twenty-four tracks clock in at over seventy minutes, so there’s value here without doubt, even though you do get most of the songs twice between the studio session and the live show. 

As mentioned before, the live show steals the disc.  The performances are more upbeat and the passion is such that the live milieu clearly stands out as the bands preferred venue of musical expression.  “M.A.C.H.”, “Sexual Conceptual”, and “Song Number One” all stand out during the concert as signature songs for the band.  The set even ends with an impromptu bust by the police complete with helicopters and bullhorns.  A sense of fun permeates the recording that must be heightened for those who were there to see the band when still a functioning unit.  Nothing raises the band to the level of influential demi-gods like so many of the other bands from that scene, but they were certainly a creative and entertaining force musically.  Even if they never made it out of their friends’ backyards. - Travis Becker

Nephilius (webzine)
April 2005

Originally intended to be released by SST in 1985, the band broke up, and the tapes were shelved. All the songs on this release is from 1985. The album includes all the band’s studio and live tracks. The music is  refreshing  and  timeless.  24 tracks on this album is a real  treat. This guys are really rockin' the floor.  Catchy  as hell, shaking  you  whole  body  all  over the  dancefloor. Some of the tracks is  real  kick -ass  rock that's blowing you away, dirty filthy and crazy. All record buyers run and get hold of this record.
A real diamond from the 80's. YEEEAAAAHH!! - Joost Hegle