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Naked Raygun

Naked Raygun was a great big Saint Bernard of a band, full of bounding energy but lacking malice. From 1981 to 1991, they enthralled punks across the country and around the world with their aggressive, melodic songs. Singer Jeff Pezzati belted out political protests that conveyed a message without sacrificing melody, whipping audiences into a frenzy and driving them to sing/shout along to every word. Guitarist John Haggerty tore through chords and hooks more ferociously than a fighting 250-pound marlin. And the rhythm section hammered it out the way punk rock should be played: fast, tight, and loud! Part of Naked Raygun's greatness was their unabashed sense of fun. They were known for tossing out free schwag at shows, anything from fly swatters to refrigerator magnets, all in the name of sharing.

When people talk about Naked Raygun, it is always in awed tones that recall the band's life-changing effect. If you asked a teenage punk in 1980s Chicago to name the mightiest band in the world, odds are they'd name Naked Raygun before they would even think of the Dead Kennedys. That's not to say that the band thought of themselves as a class apart: their influences are apparent in their choice of covers by bands like The Buzzcocks, Wire, Stiff Little Fingers, and Thin Lizzy (yeah, they sure did do a kick-ass version of "The Boys are Back in Town"). In turn, they helped solidify the snarling, burly sound of a generation of Chicago bands. Their producer, Iain Burgess, even produced a little local band called Big Black.

Haggerty left to form Pegboy before the band recorded Raygun Naked Raygun, their last studio album. The band wasn't the same without him, and they soon broke up. After their demise, Naked Raygun albums became difficult to find. In 1997, Dyslexic released Last of the Demohicans, a collection of demos and artifacts. And then, in 1999, Quarterstick reissued Naked Raygun's five full-length albums, reintroducing them to old fans, and exposing young punks to one of the genre's seminal bands.

"Metastasis," from 1985's Throb Throb, is the pinnacle of self-deprecation. "Home of the Brave," from All Rise (Homestead Records, 1986) tells the story of "broken dreams and promises," punctuated by a bouncy sing-along chorus. "Coldbringer" and "Walk In Cold," from Jettison, seethe with intense energy, daring any listener to jump in the pit. These songs are a small sample of the awesomeness of Naked Raygun. If you missed them the first time around, here's your chance to hear one of the great American punk bands. If you loved them before, get ready to rock like it's 1987 all over again.

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