Friday, April 4, 2008

Freemasonry – Sparrin’ With The Varmit and Others





Tightly packed bowls go out to the dude who sent the link to all the gaps in my Freemasonry collection (Kip?), now I can post pretty much everything you can find on this band here. Included is the Sparrin’ With The Varmit LP/CD/Tape on Sky Records from 1995, the complete 1993 Demo, the Pool Hall Demo and the complete Live at WREK from May of 1994 (the split LP with Scout is in an earlier post - and also on the right side of this page).

Here they are:

Freemasonry Sparrin' With The Varmit Album

Freemasonry Live at WREK May 5, 1994

Freemasonry Fall 1993 Demo

Freemasonry Pool Hall Demo


So let’s talk about Sparrin’ With The Varmit, because it is a landmark album for DIY bands from Atlanta in the 1990’s, for several reasons. For one, this was the “breakthrough” album for our scene. They were the only ones of our circle of bands that got a true record deal, recorded at a real studio, and released and album on multiple formats. That being said, the album itself had some major flaws that I’m sure the band acknowledges, but probably hindered its success at the time of release. One is that the album title is possibly the worst title in the history of Atlanta bands (although “Out of a Silent Sky” is a close second). Second, the album art is really cool, but the “Sparrin’ With The Varmit” printing on the jar looks ridiculous. I remember Kip saying the same thing to me once, agreeing with this statement. The recording is very professional, however seemed to be mixed poorly. Sarge’s vocals are really weak compared with other Freemasonry recordings. I wonder if he was having voice problems at the time, or if the engineer/producer didn't know how to place his voice in the mix. Also, Sarge’s guitar is more buried in the mix while Bruce’s is more dominant. I think this was a mistake, as Bruce is really a master of texture and complementing Sarge’s riffs, but Sarge is really the guy who leads the melodic element of the band, so his guitar should have been more prominent. Another criticism is that the recording is actually too clean for Freemasonry. They need some grit and dirtiness in the mix to give it the crunch it needs, especially in songs like “Everyday” when Sarge and Bruce start chugging together. It sounds amazing on the Live At Wrek session, but almost muted on the Varmit LP. Marcus and Kip are in top form, however, so no complaints there. I think Kip (I believe it was him) captured the feeling of the album and band very well here:

“thnx for posting these. the label went bankrupt and destroyed all remaining copies of sparrin with the varmint. members went on to Haricot Vert, Chocolate Kiss, Copa Vance (all on Moodswing Records) and presently The Forever War. three fourths of Freemasonry experienced serious bouts with drug use: one is dead, one is unaccounted for and the last fled to isolation far from atlanta.

most would be surprised to know that those songs were born of it consistently heavy drug cocktails at practice and during shows.

and sparrin with the varmint is a pretty poor representation of the band vs other unreleased recordings. it presents a pretty sterile and inconsistent album. you are your worst critic.”


My last criticism is something that I had at the time of its release, but now am glad they did it this way. The album is over 50 minutes long, which is way too much Freemasonry to take in one sitting. It’s like listening to a Rocket From the Crypt album that is 50 minutes long – it just is not a good idea. These types of bands need to come in, blow your head off, and leave before you even know what is going on. Sparrin’ with the Varmit is epic, and like it or not is a milestone in Atlanta post punk, and I am glad now that they released such a long album. There is more Freemasonry out there to listen to due to this album, and it plays as kind of a greatest hits collection for the band, along with some new jams thrown in. I really like “Kitty Come Home”, which was my favorite of their post-Lunchbox songs. It was great that they included older songs like “Everyday”, “Einahpets” and “Mrs. Ecoli” from the Fall 1993 demo, but I wasn’t too into the new vocals by Sarge on “Everyday”. It kind of took away the power of those 3 lines in the middle of the song “Every little thing, you’ve given, every little thing you’ve taken, take a little look inside and see what’s changing”. That was just so amazing when they would play that song, which was essentially an instrumental, and then hit you with those lines in the middle – it was one of the most powerful moments in music that I have ever experienced, no joke. I also wish they had included “Freemissionary Style” as that was probably one of their best songs, and definitely the best song that was not included on the album, but you can’t have everything.

All criticism of their last release aside, the band was amazing and I am very happy to have this music around to listen to every once in awhile. So many monumental bands never even go into a studio, and I’m glad that Freemasonry didn’t take that route. Now if I could just get some video footage.



(back cover from the cd version)





(Insert and Lyric Sheet from the LP version - of course I own both LP and CD versions)

9 comments:

  1. as it turns out, sarge is actually living in oklahoma and is a master welder. married with a daughter.

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  2. My dad worked at the post office with some guy whose son was some kind of promoter or otherwise had access to piles of promotional junk. In high school I was awarded a selection of such material, which included a cassette version of ""Sparrin' With The Varmint". Liked the album, but never knew the story behind the band, so this is a blast from the past!

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  3. Hey Shanks - thanks for the comment! It's amazing how music can get in the hands of people from such random sources. It would be interesting to know where you live, just to see how far the Freemasonry recordings went. My understanding from Kip the drummer was that very few of these were really sold, and most ended up in a landfill somewhere. This was really a great band, however, and I am going to post a live show on the radio soon (not the WREK show, which is already posted), so keep in touch.

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  4. I'm from western Massachusetts. There were a couple other bands I liked from my promo tape score, Latimer and Combine, both of whom I eventually found cds by (languishing in dollar bins), but Freemasonry I never saw anywhere else until now. I appreciate this blog, which I can't even remember how I found...I spend most of my music hunting time on metal, so this stuff is a nice change of pace, and a great document on an era.

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  5. Thanks Shanks! I really appreciate any comments from outside Atlanta, as I look at this blog as kind of a local thing, but there were/are so many good bands everywhere, it's nice to have at least some bands from this city documented like this. Pretty much every label involved from back then is gone now, so the only way to hear this music is if you bought the album, single, etc. back then, and most of us didn't.

    You should check out my friend Gray's blog http://shinygreymonotone.blogspot.com and his sister blog for metal http://colostomygrab-bag.blogspot.com/ It's probably right up your alley.

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  6. Freemasonry ... my favorite band of the era! They played my living room at 515 Ethel St. a few times (as did Hal al Shedad) though by that point I think Sarge was out of the band and they had not quite morphed into Galanas::Cerdd.

    Thanks for the blog. This is great!

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  7. Hey EL - I remember that show at 515 Ethel St. It would have been in late 1995 or so, and I remember biting my thumbnails so short because I was nervous at playing for an older crowd at a GA Tech house show. I normally grip my sticks so tight, my hands were in such pain after we played, I can still feel it when I cut my nails too short. This was also I believe the first show after Sarge was out of Freemasonry, so they played more or less instrumentally, and it was before Rick Moore joined the band, so they were not officially Galanas Gerdd by that point. Thanks for the comment!

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  8. How did Marcus die? I dated him for a bit, but was friends with all of them. I'm not even sure how I found this blog, but glad I did.

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