Salem 66 came from a unique group of artists that were housed by Homestead Records in the mid 80’s, that also included the likes of Death of Samantha and Antietam. They had a genuinely disparate sound, that somehow appears to the usual revival over the last 35 years.
Perhaps it is not surprising, as it is a onerous sound / feel to get correct. For Salem 66 were perhaps pioneers (along with Pylon) of a sound that seemed to revel in the spirit of the late 70’s / early 80’s ‘waves’ (cold / minimal / new etc etc) whilst simultaneously providing muted appreciation to all manner of the era’s college rock heroes.
As such this Boston MA four piece were undoubtedly strange in all the right places. Tracks such the wonderful Seven Steps Down and Sinking Ship (see below) saw the sort of deadpan caterwauled vocals, that were usually only reserved for minimal wave artists, threaded into bizarrely agitated off kilter guitar riffs.
However weird it all sounds, these tracks were rescued and imbued with brilliance by the fact that melodic college rock style jangled rock appeared to be bursting out of every musical seam, to such an extent that such a struggle became the defining essence of the aesthetic.
Of course it was the 80’s and as such a pervasive claustrophobic atmosphere had to appear in tracks such as Red Barn and Sleep On Flowers (see below) to thwart possible arrest by the Goth police. However, even these tracks still had that constant hidden melody that craved attention in the background and gave difference to the usual big hair, black eye-liner and chain belts.
This is not your traditional twinkly jangle-pop with lovely riffs, being loving caressed out of Rickenbackers, by fellas with baggy clothes, floppy fringes and moist eyes. This is something altogether more intensely scintillating and vulgar and helped to create a template for just how different janglepop could be in subsequent decades.