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Pagans— The Blue Album (Smog Veil Records)

Teachers Pet—Teachers Pet (Smog Veil Records)

Tin Huey— Before Obscurity: The Bushflow Tapes (Smog Veil Records)

Easter Monkeys— Splendor of Sorrow (Smog Veil Records)

Pistol Whip— Terminal (Smog Veil Records)

Not to take anything away from New York or London, but it was the Cleveland-Akron area that had the coolest of all the early punk scenes. While the Ramones and Sex Pistols were still getting their minimalist chops together, Northeast Ohio’s industrial wasteland already had Devo, Rocket from the Tombs (which would splinter into the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu), the Electric Eels, Mirrors, and others, all making music just as radical, and in many cases more adventurous, than that of their media-hogging counterparts. Since 1991 the Smog Veil label has been mining the underside of the Ohio rustbelt, and here’s five well-worthy exhumations.

The Pagans were matched for raw, straight-up scorch locally only by the Dead Boys. Armed with singer Mike Hudson’s unbeatable, scraped-throat yelp and Mike Metoff’s glorious, trash-can guitar, the band began cranking out the evil vibes in 1976 and its early singles now change hands for 401K-draining sums. Recorded live during a 1988 reunion, The Blue Album (a reference to the group’s earlier live disc, The Pink Album) delivers blistering classics like “She’s a Cadaver” and “Real World.” Hudson, also a sharp writer, recently published a book about his Pagans days, Diary of a Punk (2009, Tuscarora Books; available through Smog Veil).

During its lifetime Teachers Pet (sic) released only one single, 1978’s killer “Hooked on You,” on the seminal Clone label. With its members sporting hilariously brilliant pseudonyms (Rex Lax, Jack Hammer, etc.), the Akron group rocked a glammy singalong style that pairs cheese-smeared keyboards with raunchy Heartbreakers guitar. This long-overdue compendium has scarce live and studio tracks (unreleased second single “Cincinnati Stomp”; covers of the Pistols, Status Quo, 999, and Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry VIII I Am”), and three vintage videos shot for Kent State’s campus TV. Bushflow Studio, where Teachers Pet cut its lone 45, was run by Tin Huey’s late bassist, Mark Price. Formed in the early ’70s by Zappa/Beefheart-inspired musical pranksters, the Hueys were one of those cases of an act’s being punk by association; they sure didn’t fit the cover-band scene. With a core of Price, keyboardist/guitarist/vocalist Harvey Gold, saxophonist Ralph Carney, and guitarist Chris Butler, the band released three fine singles (also on Clone) and the superb Contents Dislodged During Shipment LP on Warner Bros. prior to its early ’80s breakup. (Butler found wider fame with the Waitresses, while Carney went on to play with Tom Waits and others.) Before Obscurity compiles unheard material for a winning dose of this pioneering crew’s unique brand of jazzy garage weirdness.

When it comes to forgotten underground greats, the Easter Monkeys are a personal fave. With future Pere Ubu member Jim Jones on guitar, the foursome’s swampy, sax-soaked mess comes off like Flipper getting the Cramps in a headlock. This deluxe repacking of the Monkeys’ legendary and way-out-of-print posthumous 1990 album adds a handsome booklet, a live DVD, and six bonus tracks that include the only tune released when the band was together: the infamous “Cheap Heroin,” from the unfindable 1982 Cleveland Confidential comp. If you dig dark, rude noise, this is some seriously great shit. (Footnote: The drummer here is Linda Hudson, younger sister of the Pagans’ Mike Hudson.)

From just across the state line, in Erie, Pennsylvania, came Pistol Whip, a snotty quintet that began as glam-era precursors but ditched the shags and sequins for spikes and leather when punk hit. In a by-now familiar tale, the band dropped one great seven-inch (on the appropriately named Endangered Species imprint) before self-destructing. Terminal compiles the hideously rare single, 10 demos, and a DVD of wild live footage—the forced humor of the documentary-style narration between some tunes, however, is grating. But, thanks to the almighty fast-forward button, the music still wins out. —Peter Aaron

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