These days — that is, more than a dozen years after the first volume of Killed By Death (a bootleg compilation series of rare early punk releases) — it's extremely rare to find an "unknown" record, much less a good one. CRITICAL MASS has proven that there is still hope for the world of punk fans craving previously unheard late 70's punk rock. Let's put it this way: the record inspired me to drive over 1000 miles from Texas to Florida to find out more about the band!

The nucleus of CRITICAL MASS formed in Miami, Florida in fall 1973 around singer-guitarist Mick Fazz. The original line-up included Mick's brother, a friend from junior high on guitar, and another friend, Al ("the proverbial kid next door") on bass. As with so many punk bands (especially true in Texas anyway), Critical Mass found their punk footing in 1977 upon hearing the Sex Pistols "Never Mind The Bollocks" LP. Mick reports that a lukewarm recommendation from a better-than-you record clerk ("it's all right if you don't like your teachers or something") brought the LP to his attention. He, in turn, grabbed his cronies by the collars and dragged them into his room for listening sessions.

It wasn't too much longer till Critical Mass was heading into a Hialeah studio to lay down their own revved-up punk & roll tracks. The band only recorded two songs, both originals. "Silver Screen" and "No One Left To Blame" would comprise the band's first and only single. One spin of the record reveals Mick's appreciation of Johnny Rotten's vocals and Johnny Thunders' guitar — you'd never guess the record was from Florida. 200 copies of the Critical Mass 7in. were released sans picture sleeve in the summer of 1978. Mick found that the other band members didn't share his enthusiasm for the record's release. "I was excited that we finally did something substantial as far as our musical existence was concerned, and I couldn't get any of the other guys to share in my jubilation. The drummer wanted to go play tennis, the bass player had to go to a barbecue, and the other guitarist didn't give a shit!" The local reception to the record was as expected in the days where Eagles cover bands reigned supreme. "I'll never forget some bimbo kicking the jukebox at one club, trying to make the record skip to the end so she could hear the song SHE wanted to hear... 'Hot Legs' by Rod Stewart!"

bizcard Over two decades later, it's clear to any who've heard the Critical Mass 7in. that the jukebox bimbo deserved nothing less than a swift kick in the ass. The "Silver Screen" 7in. is a hands-down classic, and nd it preceded The Eat's "Communist Radio" by at least a year. Critical Mass is a swamplands gem indeed.

Epilogue: the revolving door for band members continued its spin with Mick Fazz remaining the only constant throughout. Critical Mass eventually landed a record deal with MCA and released their It's What Inside That Counts LP (an appropriate caption for the band photo above, I might add). With different band members, different aspirations, and different people at the studio controls, the LP is but a shadow of the "Silver Screen" era Critical Mass. It's hard to imagine capturing the 45's energy recording at the studio of a Yes member. Critical Mass continued playing intermittently through 1993, having moved from Miami to Orlando.

— Ryan Richardson

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