Matt Harnish (Bunnygrunt) and Jason Rerun (the Medical Tourists) have started their own cottage industry with BDR Records. The label's aim is to release new editions of old recordings by St. Louis punk and new wave bands from the late '70s and early '80s. BDR's first release was a compilation of music by moody post-punks Raymilland, while last weekend, the label released two other long-awaited projects: a 7" EP from all-girl group the Welders and the 1981 compilation Test Patterns. The latter, which was originally released by John "the Mailman" Korst, copublisher/founder of the local 'zine Jet Lag, offers a one-shot dose of the city's independent musical underground at the time. As such, the disc not only reclaims some solid St. Louis punk and pop, it serves as a preserved time capsule of that scene. That Harnish and Rerun chose not to update the tracklisting with other like-minded tracks is a smart move.
Each of the seven bands featured on Test Patterns contributes two songs, and there's surprisingly little dead weight for a 30-year-old sampler. Given the benefit of hindsight, it's perhaps a little too easy for a modern listener to connect the stylistic dots and draw connections to some of the big names of the day; the Police, Talking Heads and the Specials are some obvious touchstones. Most bands hew closer to the smart, nervy pulse of new wave, though the Zanti Misfits' "Bachelor's Friend" shows a clear infatuation with the Buzzcocks. Mopeds' "Woe Is Me" follows in a similar vein, but the glistening piano chords and key-changing guitar licks suggests a band with a pop soul. Trained Animal sounds like bratty, irrepressible party band with cleaned-up reggae rhythms and snide punk licks; the band's "U.R.A. Girl" could still serve as a south-side anthem all these years later. Test Patterns is certainly worth a few spins for anyone interested in an excavation of St. Louis' rock history, but even casual fans of smart pop music will find something worthwhile.
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