I’M A BUG by THE URINALS
Los Angeles punks The Urinals formed in a UCLA dormitory in 1978. The group’s original five-piece lineup consisted of vocalist Delia Frankel, guitarist Steve Willard, bassist John Talley-Jones, organist Kjehl Johansen, and drummer Kevin Barrett, but after making their public debut at a campus talent show, Frankel and Willard exited over creative differences. Johansen switched to guitar, and the remaining trio soldiered on, teaching themselves a sufficient number of rudimentary notes and chords to begin writing original material. Vitus Mataré, keyboardist with L.A. power pop combo the Last, soon agreed to produce the Urinals’ self-titled debut EP, issued on their own Happy Squid label in 1979. The self-explanatory Another EP followed. Favoring jagged, blink-and-you-miss-them songs and a defiantly minimalist approach to melody, the Urinals established themselves as a singular presence on the L.A. punk landscape, even if their reluctance to perform off-campus guaranteed the band’s existence remain a mystery to the populace at large. Finally, in early 1980 the Urinals accepted an invitation to play the Austin, TX, club Raul’s, returning home to open for the fledgling Go-Go’s at the Sunset Strip club Gazzarri’s. In addition, the trio played occasionally under the alias Arrow Book Club, a vehicle for their improvisational leanings. Indeed, as the Urinals’ musicianship and songwriting skills grew, the group felt increasingly uncomfortable performing under an aegis chosen with so little care, and in 1980 officially rechristened themselves 100 Flowers, taken from the Maoist edict “Let 100 flowers bloom and 100 schools of thought contend.” Tracks for a planned Urinals full-length were scrapped, and 100 Flowers began work on a new LP. Tensions within the band mounted, however, and by the time their self-titled debut appeared in February 1983, their farewell show was already a month past. Johansen next collaborated with Mataré in Trotsky Icepick, a group Talley-Jones joined several years later, while Barrett played in God and the State. In 1996 the classic Urinals lineup came back together to play at a Wednesday Week record release party and decided to make the reunion permanent, touring in support of avowed fans like Sonic Youth and Mudhoney. When Johansen exited in 1998 to resume his solo career, the remaining duo recruited former Ten Foot Faces guitarist Roderick Barker as his replacement; the Urinals’ first-ever studio LP, What Is Real and What Is Not, finally appeared in 2003, while their classic early material is available via the compilation Negative Capability…Check It Out!