New Jersey Indie Heroes Cover Cleveland's Electric Eels


Hoboken indie-rock stalwarts Yo Lo Tengo have just released a covers album called Fuckbook under the name Condo Fucks. Although most of the songs are by artists any moderately serious fan would likely know (the Beach Boys, the Kinks, the Troggs, Slade, the Small Faces), there’s one you’d have to be a serious underground junkie to be familiar with: “Accident” by the Electric Eels, one of a small circle of legendary art/noise bands that festered in Cleveland in the mid-’70s, along with Mirrors, the Styrenes and Rocket From the Tombs (which spawned the relatively well-known and still extant Pere Ubu.)

Formed by guitarists John Morton (now an artist in New York) and Brian McMahon (writing prolifically in Chicago) and singer Dave E., the Eels (1972-1975) were known for their reckless, ramshackle and infrequent performances. Composed by McMahon, “Accident” was first available first on the 1991 collection God Says Fuck You on New York-based indie Homestead; more recently it appeared on The Eyeball of Hell on Scat Records, a label founded by ex-Cleveland Robert Griffith of Prisonshake.

Scat's website also features a provocatively readable account of that particular scene and era of Cleveland music, whose influence (as shown by this cover version) has proved to be durable and way out of proportion to the impact it made at the time. It’s a first-hand account, written by Charlotte Pressler, whose late husband Peter Laughner was another key player in the scene. —Anastasia Pantsios

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