In 2014, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a vinyl box-set reissue of some of my favorite albums ever made: the first three full-lengths by the Cleveland post-hardcore band Craw, all out of print for roughly two decades. Each of these records—1993's Craw, 1994's Lost Nation Road and 1997's Map, Monitor, Surge—is a masterpiece of aggressive, unsettling, forward-thinking underground rock. (Check out this five-song Bandcamp sampler to hear for yourself.) Of these three, only Lost Nation Road has ever been issued on vinyl previously, in a subpar limited-edition pressing. Now, in 2015, we're resurrecting this effort with a more manageable funding goal and a sturdier team of experts committed to making this project a success.
On behalf of all seven ex-members of Craw, who have lent their full support to this reissue effort, I'm relaunching the campaign with the help of esteemed Brooklyn indie label Northern Spy, which for the past decade has issued a steady stream of vital, challenging releases in the fields of avant-rock, free jazz and experimental music. Their aesthetic is a perfect fit for Craw's brilliant and unclassifiable work. If we meet the fund-raising goal, Northern Spy will issue the 6-LP box—featuring newly remastered versions of all three albums—as originally planned, at a much lower price, with several key improvements outlined below. (Each of the three albums are too long to fit on a single high-quality LP, hence our 6-LP model.) Also on board, designing the packaging for the box and a custom 100-page liner-notes book, is Aqualamb, a one-of-a-kind, visually driven Brooklyn record label with deep roots in the same ’90s-era Cleveland scene that nurtured Craw.
Here are the improvements we've made upon the 2014 version of this campaign:
* If we hit the target, Northern Spy will bring all of its manufacturing expertise, distribution savvy and PR clout to the table. Not only will we provide deluxe, 6-LP box sets to backers; Northern Spy will distribute any remaining copies of the 300-box run to record stores and mail-order houses worldwide, while also reissuing the contents of the box digitally through all conventional channels (iTunes, Amazon, etc.), and promoting these releases to web and print outlets worldwide. In other words, if you support this campaign, you're not just purchasing Craw's music for yourself; you're helping to rescue it from obscurity.
*Since we're working with a 300-copy model, the per-unit cost is much cheaper. Our base price for the box set is more than 50% less than the 2014 asking price. The current prices will only be offered through this Kickstarter preorder campaign.
*Those in or around Brooklyn, NY, will be able to pick up the box in-person at the Northern Spy office and avoid shipping costs altogether. We will also arrange a pick-up site in Craw's hometown of Cleveland.
*Thanks to Aqualamb, the box will include a 100-page bound paperback book featuring complete lyrics for all three albums, previously unpublished band photos, previously unpublished interview excerpts with Craw members and new, original artwork. See below for samples.
*T-shirts! With the help of Seattle's Broken Press, we've printed new Craw logo shirts in both black-on-white and white-on-black designs—just 50 of each. These shirts are exclusive to this campaign and are available to those who pledge at or above the box-set level. We will sell any extras after the campaign ends, but for now, the only way to get a T-shirt is to preorder the box.
*The following items will be included with all box-set orders while supplies last: Craw logo stickers (white-on-black; brand new and exclusive to this campaign); Craw "Baboon head" posters (mid-’90s vintage; exclusive to this campaign, unless you happen to own an original); original wrapped CD copies of Map, Monitor, Surge (Craw's third album; a remastered version will be included in vinyl box); and original wrapped CD copies of Bodies for Strontium 90 (Craw's fourth album, courtesy of Hydra Head Records; contents not included in vinyl box).
Read on for complete details on this effort. Thank you for your support.
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 those of any other. In the two decades since, much of which I've spent working as a professional music journalist, I've never stopped obsessing over this body of work.
It baffles me that even in the blog age, Craw remains so little-known. In an effort to remedy this, and with the full approval of Craw's ex-members, I'm raising money to reissue the band's first three full-lengths—1993's Craw, 1994's Lost Nation Road and 1997's Map, Monitor, Surge, all out of print since shortly after their original release—as a limited-edition vinyl box set. It is my personal mission to resurface this music, making it available to as many listeners as possible and properly situating it within the canon of aggressive, intelligent underground rock.
Simply put, Craw, Lost Nation Road and Map, Monitor, Surge are my favorite albums of all time. The songs they contain are explosive, eerie and downright riveting, combining 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 their 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 ’90s classics such as Slint's Spiderland, the Jesus Lizard's Goat and Shellac's At Action Park.
Anyone interested in dark, heavy, complex rock/metal—everything from Tool, Meshuggah and King Crimson to Neurosis, Don Caballero, Bitch Magnet, Kayo Dot, Dazzling Killmen, Rodan, Isis, Today Is the Day and Gorguts—needs to know these records. 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; vocals that range from a faint whine to a horrifying shriek; an immense dynamic range; intoxicating guitar textures; 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 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.
The following are artwork samples, courtesy of Aqualamb. While these mock-ups are by no means final, they give a good direction of the overall aesthetic of the package as we envision it:
Please write crawtheband [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions about this project.
Risks and challenges
The main challenge we face is that all members of our team are working in the context of busy professional lives. However, I pledge that when our funding comes through, I, Northern Spy and Aqualamb will make the production of this box set our top priority and ensure that it's delivered on time.
Vinyl production can be a slow process, filled with delays. We have built in extra time when choosing our proposed fulfillment date. But if it appears that we can't hit our December 2015 target, we will notify all backers immediately and provide them with total transparency.
The unclassifiable nature of Craw's music is what makes this band extremely special, but it's also what makes their music extremely hard to market. As we promote the set for general sale, it will be a challenge to spread the word without oversimplifying the product. We promise to always consider the integrity of the music above all else.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter