Exposé Online banner

The Muffins — Open City
(Cuneiform 55010, 1985/1994, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 1994-08-01

Open City Cover art

For the uninitiated, The Muffins were a Washington DC based band who existed from about 1973 to '81. Despite that many years, they only released three regular albums during their career (although more material has been released posthumously on CD and tape, including the subject of this review). Their style is firmly rooted in the Canterbury styles of Soft Machine, Henry Cow, Elton Dean, and others — a jazz oriented rock style complete with two reedsmen on board, yet these comparisons really only tell part of the story. Their highly energized and experimental sound went far to define the new American progressive sound that emerged in the late 70s. This material on this collection has several origins, yet it all flows together seamlessly. The first seven tracks are from the band's last demo tape in 1980, consisting mostly of alternate versions of material from the <185> and Manna/Mirage albums, recorded "live" in the studio: the complexity of "Queenside,” the schizophrenic and moody "Antidote to Drydock,” the humorous adventure "Zoom Resume" and the out-and-out smoker "Hobart Got Burned" all offer evidence of The Muffins amazing level of musical sophistication. Most of the tracks are purely instrumental, but on the odd occasion when vocals are employed, they never take center stage or detract from their musical muscle. Two tracks "Vanity" and "Dancing in Sunrise" are out-takes from Fred Frith's Gravity album, a project which The Muffins participated in. "Blind Arch" is taken from a live concert in 1977, and "Expected Freedom" is a short outtake from the Manna/Mirage sessions. The remaining tracks were from Take One — a radio show on WGTB, Georgetown University; here they demonstrate their improvisational prowess on "In the Red" and offer a superb fourteen-minute composition in "Not Alone.” In all, this could be considered a good introduction to The Muffins' music, or an essential supplement to round out their regular albums.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 4, 1994 releases, 1985 recordings

Related artist(s): Fred Frith, The Muffins, Dave Newhouse (Manna / Mirage), Paul Sears

Latest news

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more

2020-05-14
Jorge Santana RIP – Jorge Santana, noted guitarist, leader of the band Malo and brother to Carlos Santana, died on May 14 at the age of 68. Jorge and Carlos worked together on a number of occasions, though Jorge's career was centered around Malo, solo work, and with Fania All-Stars. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Corrosive Media - Speakeasy – Speakeasy is a maxi-CD single of three techno-house tracks from German duo Benedict Wyneken and Uwe Wienke. Tracks 1 and 3 clock in at just over fibe minutes each while the centerpiece, "Tommy Gun,"...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues