The early-’90s post-hardcore movement has been dissected, cataloged and preserved. The Jesus Lizard and Slint have embarked on successful reunion tours, and now have their own coffee-table book and box set, respectively; you can purchase hundreds of live Fugazi recordings directly from the band; and lesser-known groups such as Bitch Magnet, Floor and Rodan have all seen their work handsomely reissued. As a passionate fan of underground rock growing up during these years, I discovered another band, a Cleveland group called Craw, whose records meant more to me than any others. In the two decades since, during which I've launched a career as a professional music journalist, I've never stopped obsessing over this body of work.
At the same time, I've always been baffled that even in the blog age, Craw remains so little-known. In an effort to remedy this, and with the full approval of the ex-members, I'm raising money to produce a limited-edition LP box-set reissue of the first three Craw full-lengths—1993's Craw, 1994's Lost Nation Road and 1997's Map, Monitor, Surge—all out of print since the late ’90s. Simply put, these are my favorite albums of all time. They contain some the most explosive, eerie and downright riveting music I've ever heard—music that combines the visceral rush of metallic post-hardcore, the compositional majesty of progressive rock and the purposeful abstraction of experimental improv, while at the same time achieving a rare, insular coherence all its own. These records aren't special merely because they're obscure; they're not second best to everything you've already heard from their era. I truly believe that these three LPs—each recorded or co-recorded by Steve Albini—stand alongside acknowledged masterworks such as Spiderland, Goat and Repeater.
Anyone interested in dark, heavy, complex rock/metal—everything from Tool, Meshuggah and King Crimson to Neurosis, Kayo Dot, Don Caballero, Today Is the Day, Isis, Dazzling Killmen and Gorguts—needs to know this music. Each of Craw's first three full-lengths is an endlessly involving labyrinth in which elegiac beauty presses up against nightmarish ugliness. These albums feature air-tight, ingeniously off-kilter riffs; intoxicating guitar textures; vocals that range from a faint whine to a horrifying shriek; an immense dynamic range; epic, multichapter song structures; and esoteric lyrical themes. The songs don't follow conventional patterns, but their internal logic is uncannily sound; they're scientific in their microdetail, yet at the same time, bracingly emotional. I've been listening to these records for two decades, and their urgency and mad brilliance haven't diminished in the slightest.
If this Kickstarter campaign is successful, I will reissue these records as a six-LP box set, with each of Craw's first three albums spread across two 180-gram vinyl records, pressed in Craw's hometown of Cleveland by Gotta Groove Records. This will be the first vinyl release for the self-titled debut and Map, Monitor, Surge, and the first proper vinyl release for Lost Nation Road, which originally came out on a poor-quality limited-edition LP that was missing one album track. All three albums will be newly remastered—for both the vinyl box set and a concurrent digital release—by Bonati Mastering. The records will come packaged in a custom slipcase manufactured by Stoughton Printing Co., and the set will feature a clean, elegant new design that complements rather than upstages the gorgeous layouts of the original CD releases. The package will also include a booklet featuring excerpts of new and recent interviews with members of Craw, shedding light on this severely underdocumented musical endeavor; full lyrics for all three albums, newly proofed by vocalist Joe McTighe; and vintage Craw photographs courtesy of Karen Novak and others.
Here's a preliminary sketch for the cover of the outer slipcase, with a motif that may be repeated on the individual album sleeves:
Donors to this campaign will receive various exciting rewards, including a set of previously unissued Craw bootlegs in MP3 form; posters by famed Cleveland artist and longtime Craw supporter Derek Hess; CD copies of the third and fourth Craw albums, Map, Monitor, Surge and Bodies for Strontium 90; original T-shirts and set lists; and, of course, copies of the finished six-LP set, which is limited to 100 copies and will only be available directly through this Kickstarter campaign.
If you donate to this project, you will be helping to rescue from obscurity some of the greatest and most enduring sonic art the American underground has produced. More importantly, you'll get to experience this magical music for yourself. You won't be disappointed.
Write crawtheband [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions about this project.
For those interested in a more specific cost breakdown, here is what all funds raised will cover:
*180-gram vinyl pressing (Gotta Groove)
*Double-pocket record jackets (Gotta Groove)
*20-page insert booklet (Gotta Groove)
*Outer slip cases (Stoughton)
*Shipping (USPS Standard Post - U.S.-only)
*Video editing / design—friends of mine are donating their time and expertise up front, and I've budgeted in modest fees for each of them.
Risks and challenges
*I've worked hard to calculate a comprehensive cost estimate, but it's always possible that I'll require extra funding in order to produce and ship the box sets. Shipping costs are especially tricky, since there's no way to know how many sets I'll be shipping to which locations until the fund-raiser is complete. (I've decided to charge a flat additional fee for each non-U.S. order, since international shipping costs are too steep and unpredictable to calculate on a hypothetical basis.) Additionally, my figures are current as of the Kickstarter launch, but each printing/manufacturing company's price quote is subject to change.
*I'll be working on producing/shipping this box set around the demands of a full-time job and a busy freelance schedule. I'm determined to deliver the sets by the January 2015 fulfillment date, but it's hard to know exactly how long this process will take before I embark on it.
*It's not financially feasible to produce a properly bound book to showcase the liner notes, so I've had to opt for a cheaper booklet style. The only affordable option is a 20-page booklet, which doesn't give me as much space as I'd like. It's going to be a challenge to both work up a compelling visual layout and tell a respectable amount of the Craw story in this space.
*Layout/design is also a challenge. The original Craw CDs were illustrated with beautiful original paintings and photographs by a number of renowned artists. Due to rights issues and limited printable space, it's not feasible to reproduce this artwork as part of 'Craw: 1993–1997.' Therefore, a friend and I are attempting to work out a clean, elegant layout with a minimum of new graphic information. It's a real balancing act to produce something that complements the original artwork, and the music itself, while at the same time standing on its own merits.
All three remastered digital albums, plus the following Craw rarities in MP3 format:
four complete bootleg shows from 1995, including Craw's first show with drummer Will Scharf; one three-song soundboard-quality bootleg fragment, also from 1995; two complete early Craw demos: 'Celephais' and 'Craw'; various compilation- and 7-inch-only tracks including "Butterflies" and "Cancerman."
All digital content described above, plus 6-LP box set: 'Craw: 1993–1997'—limited edition of 100 copies. Plus original, sealed CD copies of both
'Map, Monitor, Surge' and Craw's fourth album, 'Bodies for Strontium 90'—the latter courtesy of Hydra Head Records—and a Craw "Baboon head" poster.
All digital content described above, plus 6-LP box set: 'Craw: 1993–1997'—limited edition of 100 copies. Plus CDs copies of 'Map, Monitor, Surge' and 'Bodies for Strontium 90,' a Craw "Baboon head" poster, and an original signed, limited-edition Craw show poster from renowned Cleveland artist Derek Hess: 12 x 26" Fuck Baseball" design (Euclid Tavern, 1995).
All digital content described above, plus 6-LP box set: 'Craw: 1993–1997'—limited edition of 100 copies. Plus CD copies of both 'Map, Monitor, Surge' and 'Bodies for Strontium 90,' a Craw "Baboon head" poster, and two original, signed, limited-edition Craw show/tour posters from Derek Hess: 12 x 26" "Fuck Baseball" design and 17 x 26" "You Guys Play Like a Bunch of Girls" design (Glazed Baby tour, 1995).
All digital content described above, plus 6-LP box set: 'Craw: 1993–1997'—limited edition of 100 copies. Plus CD copies of 'Map, Monitor, Surge' and 'Bodies for Strontium 90,' a Craw "Baboon head" poster, and two original, signed, limited-edition Craw show/tour posters from Derek Hess: "Fuck Baseball" and "You Guys Play Like a Bunch of Girls" designs. Plus one vintage cream-colored Craw T-shirt—size XL, 'Lost Nation Road' design; an original handwritten set list from the 'Map, Monitor, Surge' tour; and an original Craw logo sticker. You'll also receive a producer's credit in the liner notes.