Employing such exotic instrumentation as oil drums and metal pipes, Savage Republic were a Los Angeles band whose live shows, according to witnesses, were something to behold. The band recorded a number of albums throughout the 80s, but broke up in the early 90s, only to return in the new millennium.
Savage Republic was formed in the 80s by UCLA students Bruce Licher and Mark Erskine under the name Africa Corps. They changed their name to Savage Republic, prior to release of band’s debut album – 1982 “Tragic Figures.”
All Music Guide described “Figures” as Savage Republic’s “most atypical full-length studio album, emphasizing harsh, grating vocals and instrumental drones to a greater degree than anything else in their catalog.” In the end, AMG concluded that “like all of Savage Republic’s work, is not a collection of “songs” in the conventional rock sense, although many have vocals; it’s more like a collection of “pieces” designed to establish moods and textures.”
The album’s follow-up – 1985 “Ceremonial” – was described by AMG as “Their most accomplished and accessible work, largely jettisoning the harsher scrapings of the early records for expansive instrumentals featuring chiming guitars and occasional touches of ethereal trombone.” The album featured guest appearance by Louise Bialik from the band 17 Pygmies.
’85 also brought Trudge EP, which was available only in Europe. Trouser Press website described it as “A crawling, building excursion into the avant Arabic surf textures the band had been exploring live”. Further on, they pointed out that “Trudge” “lopes through a kind of Western movie soundtrack with some limited vocalizations but no lyrics.” and that “The abrasive edge that was engraved in the music from their industrial days is gone, leaving only the racing adrenaline that accompanied it, the clank and clatter of clay-pot percussion accents.”
1988 ” Jamahiriya” was criticized by AMG for breaking “no new ground” and sounding “ominous and dour, though not to great purpose”. However, they also pointed out that the band’s “skills at crafting tribalistic instrumental rock remain intact, and “Pois Den Mila Yia Ti Lambri” (with its martial accents) and “Lebanon 2000″ (with its early Pink Floydish rumble) are among their better tracks.”
Before they broke up/went on hiatus, the band produced one more album – 1989 “Customs”. AMG commented that the band’s “originality has pretty much run its course by the time of their final studio album”. Of a special note is “Rapeman’s 1st EP” – an homage of sorts to Rapeman, a short-lived 80s band that Steve Albini formed in the late 80s, after Big Black dissolved (the track was described by AMG as being “as difficult and grating as they ever got, though it’s not effective as either art or satire (if that was an intention)”).
While the band broke up, its members resurfaced in a whole number of other projects, including Scenic, F-Space and 17 Pygmies. In addition to this, there are two labels run by members of SR – one of which is Independent Project Records (which put out the records by the likes of Camper Van Beethoven, Scenic and Stereolab) and Mobilization Records, run by Ethan Port.
In 2002, the band returned for a few reunion dates, which were supposed to be the last indication of a band’s activity. Few years later, however, they recorded “Siam” – a 4-track EP of the first new band’s material since 1989, as well as a proper full-length called “1938”. 2009 brought “Sword Fighter / Taranto!!!” seven-inch.
– Savage Republic track “Real Men” (off of “Tragic Figures” LP) was used in the movie “Silence Of The Lambs”.
Ethan Port (Death Ride 69, F-Space)
Thom Fuhrmann (Autumnfair)
Brad Laner (17 Pygmies, Blue Daisies, Debt Of Nature, Electric Company, Fourwaycross, Lusk, Nervous Gender, Personal Electronics, Savage Republic, Steaming Coils, Three Day Stubble)
Bruce Licher (Bridge, Scenic, Them Rhythm Ants)
Greg Gunke (Autumnfair)
Jackson Del Rey (Philip Drucker) (17 Pygmies, Del Rey & The Sun Kings)
Jeff Long (Wasted Youth)
Mark Erskine (17 Pygmies)
Robert Loveless (17 Pygmies, Scenic)
Tragic Figures CD / LP (Independent Project, 1982 / 1987 / Sordide Sentimental, 1984 / Fundamental, 1987 / 1990 / Penguin, 1988 / Independent Project + We Never Sleep, 1994 / Mobilization, 2002)
Film Noir 7″ (Independent Project, 1983)
Tragic Figure 7″ (Independent Project + Iridescence, 1984)
Ceremonial LP / Cass (Independent Project, 1986 / Fundamental, 1986 / Di Di Music, 1988)
Trudge 12″ (PIAS, 1985 / Penguin, 1986)
Live At The Melkweg 25.9.87 Cass (Staalplaat, 1987)
Live Trek 1985-1986 CD / 2XLP (Nate Starkman & Son, 1987 / Fundamental, 1987)
Disarmament VHS (Atavistic, 1988)
Jamahiriya Democratique Et Populaire De Sauvage CD / LP (Fundamental, 1988 / Mobilization, 2002)
Lectisternium June 27, 1988 Cass (Savage Republic Tapes, 1988)
Viva La Rock’N’Roll 7″ (Independent Project, 1988)
Customs CD / LP (Fundamental, 1989 / Nate Starkman & Son Greece, 1989 / Mobilization, 2002)
Ceremonial + Trudge CD (Fundamental, 1990 / Mobilization, 2002)
ΝHΠIAΓΩΓEION – Live In Europe 1988 CD / LP (Fundamental, 1990)
Recordings From Live Performance, 1981 – 1983 CD /2×10″ (Independent Project, 1994 / 2002)
Complete Studio Box Set 4xCD (Neurot, 2007)
Ceremonial – Vocal And Studio Outtakes CDr (Mobilization, 2002)
1938 CD (Neurot, 2007)
Siam CD (Mobilization, 2007)
Sword Fighter / Taranto!!! 7″ (A Silent Place, 2009)
Fire And Ritual Cass (Savage Republic Tapes, unknown year)