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!"
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
CONTACT: Break My Face