I remember this band around the timing of this release as having one of the more exciting and theatrical frontmen in the genre and I suppose like many bands of that era, I'm more excited that I saw them live than whether I have their records. But as records go, this one was pretty decent.
False Prophets (1979-1993) were a left-wing protest / militant band, contemporaries of Reagan Youth and Beefeater/Fidelity Jonesand all three of these band collectives feature an outrageous frontman. There were also of the few East Coasters signed to Jello Biafra's label at the time. Live, Stephan Ielpi would goosestep around the stage, scarily get into everyone's faces and generally try to make you feel uncomfortable about politics whether or not you shared his. His between-song harangues suggested what it might be like at a Communist party meeting in a Cambodian mental hospital. Their band name basically was a refutation of the notion of following a band, declaring up front that they were just False Prophets like all the rest.
I remember coming late to the show (in Baltimore, I think) while they were setting up (this was in the mid-80s) and the kids (back then "kids" were junior high kids not college indie preps) were sitting outside smoking cigarettes and mumbling about "synthshit" but later on when the band had warmed up they were up front doing their little tribal dance. I saw them later on (at the Fidelity Jones debut show), the band had improved and frontman Stephan Ielpi had gotten even more strident and less enjoyable - their show seemed more like a lecture with songs thrown in than a concert with engaging between-song words.
While operating as a 2nd generation hardcore-thrash band (later an anti-metalcore stance was pretty evident), False Prophets rarely stayed within the conventions and aesthetics of the form utilizing synths (!) sometimes doubling up piano and organ and showing a reverence for Alice Cooper and 60's British Invasion (The Kinks). Still, they took more cues from classic punk like the Pistols, Clash, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. About a third to half of the songs here are classic hardcore. The better hardcore songs on this record are available for download at Alternative Tentacles, this album having been reissued in 2000 with some of their earlier singles. "Taxidermist" was about the most original "thrash" song to appear on ROIR's NY Thrash compilation in the 80's featuring non-ironic slow rawk chorus and a shimmery Queenish piano arpeggio in the bridge. The dumbest cut is "Suburbanites Invade," a reggae-Clash-ish rant (replete with reggae cliches like rants about Bobbylon) about, well, the suspicious, complaining suburbanites and how they should "and live in your own Hell" - I'm thinking there's goes half the door at most punk shows but it would make city life so much more enjoyable what with the petty criminals now preying on the dwellers exclusively.
"Seven Deadly Sins," the dramatic opener - Ielpi sounds like Rollins would later sound opening up with a dramatic primal sermon and then the band exploding into razor-sharp thrash. They had a tendency to go over the top but in these songs they sort of skim the glass edge. "Functional" is another standout and one of the few thrash genre songs with organ in it (besides Great Plains, ha ha)
Suffice to say, there's a lot of offbeat stuff here. The goofiest cut is "Marat/Sade" which is a cover of what sounds like a Broadway number (it's actually from a movie about Jean Marat and Marquis de Sade) which seems to defend Jacobin Jean Marat's murderous excesses during the French Revolution. Ooohkay. The band's version is well-arranged, sort of what a punk band covering Les Miserables might sound like and like most of this record well-recorded - it's goofy as hell but also audacious and brave.
"Faith', the closing cut and a more traditional rock-punk song, is my favorite with it's skankin' tribal drums and bass, double guitar attack and piano embellishments.
Not a bad record to have around, mostly well recorded and mixed (although at times, such as in "Helplessly Screaming" the bass was turned up too loud) -- yes, there are some clunkers mostly on the first side and some cuts where the band (principally the drummer) overreached, although not exactly essential as the follow-up, Implosion (which was released a year later).
- Alternative Tentacles False Prophets band site has a band history written by co-founder and bassist Steve Wishnia, a picture of Stephan Ielpi in his prime and four superb MP3s from the reissue of this record Blind Roaches & Fat Vultures. Here's Punknews' review of that reissue.
- The band reunited for the 2002 NY Thrash Compilation 20th Anniversary - pictures here
- Coincidentally, many of the members of False Prophets have become authors:
- Guitarist/Keyboardist and backup vocalist Debra DeSalvo is making her own music with her own band and has written a book called Language of the Blues
- Steve Wishnia is senior editor at High Times, often pops up on Alternet and Indymedia and has written Cannibas Companion which is also available at Ripoff Press.
- George Tabb has been writing for Maximum Rock and Roll for like forever and has several books which can be ordered via his website.
- Guitarist Steven Taylor joined the False Prophets after this record was made but wrote a memoir and diatribe entitled False Prophet: Fieldnotes from the Punk Underground about his experience describing the breakup. I've read most of it online at Amazon via their "Search Inside" feature.
- Last year, Stephan Ielpi reported that he is in San Francisco working on a poltical music project with "Mike" from Faith No More - not sure who that is since there was more than one Mike in FNM.
- Drummer Ned Brewster and guitarist-founder Peter Campbell whereabouts unknown