Rocky Mountain Low: The Colorado Musical Underground of the Late 1970’s (Hyperpycnal Records)

Colorado probably isn’t high on anyone’s list of states with a fertile punk scene in the late-1970s. However, the compilers of Rocky Mountain Low (sold as a double LP, with a bonus CD) have come up with thirty-one songs from bands in the Denver/Boulder area who responded to the rallying call of The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and other bands operating on the fringes. Without any attention from larger record labels, or even a local independent label to record for, there’s not much archival material to remember these groups by, so many are represented by lo-fi recordings from practices, poorly-recorded demos or live recordings. The sound quality is poor throughout; which is OK because the album’s value is mostly in its historical documentation rather than listening enjoyment. As documentation it’s excellent, with extensive liner notes, band bios, and cool photos of all the major local players. Musically, there isn’t much to crow about. The Ravers (who the liner notes explain were the largest local band) come off the best, although that’s probably just because they had a better quality recording than anybody else – it certainly isn’t for their pale NY Dolls imitation, “Goddess Of Love.” Most of these bands burned out pretty quickly, and were never heard from again. The exception is Healers front-man Eric Boucher, who went to San Fransisco and changed his name to Jello Biafra (there’s a great photo of a long-haired, bearded, Boucher hanging out with Joey Ramone in the booklet). Consider Rocky Mountain Low an American cousin to the UK Messthetics series – a good document of bad music.