D//E Select: Destroy All Monsters: November 22, 1963

From time to time, Destroy//Exist shines a light on an album which has profoundly influenced the music we value the most. D//E Select serves as a commendatory showcase, offering the chance to spotlight those favorites which deserve continual recognition.

Named after the 1968 Godzilla film of the same name, Destroy All Monsters were founded in 1974 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, by Cary Loren, Niagara, Mike Kelley, and Jim Shaw. Initially an experimental noise and art collective, they later transitioned into a punk band. In 1976, Shaw and Kelley left for graduate school, and were replaced by Larry and Ben Miller. Ron Asheton of the Stooges joined, along with MC5 bassist Michael Davis and drummer Rob King. Loren departed in 1977, coinciding with Niagara starting a relationship with Asheton. The band as a six-piece, released two of their most celebrated singles; Bored in 1978 and Meet the Creeper a year later. The Millers left in 1979, and under Asheton and Niagara's leadership, Destroy All Monsters continued as a punk rock band until around 1985, when they evolved into Dark Carnival. Although the second iteration of the band dissolved in 1985, the original lineup reunited in 1995 and remained active sporadically until 2017.

Released in 1989, November 22, 1963 is a compilation which showcases the band's top singles along with rare tracks. It serves as a fantastic introduction to their unrefined and straightforward garage rock sound, characterized by a punk attitude infused with artistic flair and more than impressive performances.

Niagara's nearly deadpan vocals have undeniably influenced a wave of punk and noise rock acts which followed, very often drawing comparisons to the poise and overall style of Kim Gordon.
The band's magnetism is created from a fusion of Stooges and MC5-inspired punk rock and psychedelic elements, coupled with a bizarre uneasiness and melancholy. Their blend of noisiness and unprocessed sensuality infuses their songs with a distinct, sexually charged flavor. The guitar craftsmanship of Destroy All Monsters is outstanding in all its grittiness, while Niagara's delivery accentuates the band's overall enticement, adding a drawing power and intensity to their sound.

The impact of November 22, 1963 is immediate, starting with its cover; a photograph capturing the exact moment of JFK's assassination in Dallas, Texas, hence the chosen date for the release's title. The titular song delves into a conspiracy theory implicating the CIA and Lee Harvey Oswald, portraying Kennedy's foreboding of his own demise and Jackie's impending solitude. The track hauntingly depicts the assassination, vividly illustrating the fatal shot and its aftermath. Destroy All Monsters displayed fearlessness in addressing sensitive subjects, evident not only in their lyrical content but also in their gritty, raw sound. It's not the only highlight of a succinct, yet rather punchy compilation which swiftly comes and goes, yet it contains some of the most impactful underground rock 'n' roll ever.

The compilation was originally released through Revenge Records, a French label dedicated to the Detroit sound, with a particular focus on artists like Iggy Pop. Apart from a Japanese CD reissue in 2007, the compilation has been out of print for quite some time.

Asheton passed away in 2009, Kelley died by suicide on February 1st, 2012, at age 57, while Davis also died in 2012, at age 68. Loren and Shaw performed together for the last time as Destroy All Monsters in 2017.

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