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

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more

2019-01-02
Chicago-Based Surabhi Ensemble Tours the World in January – Surabhi Ensemble was formed more than a decade ago in Chicago with the aim of bringing together musicians from varying traditions to make music. Saraswathi Ranganathan, who plays veena, assembled a cast that includes Arabic oud, Spanish guitar, and percussion from Africa and India. This month, the group will be sharing their sounds with concert-goers in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. » Read more

2018-12-23
Seaprog Festival Seeks Donations – Seaprog is a small festival in Seattle that highlights creative music from many genres with artists from around the world. It's also a US non-profit organization. They're seeking donations to help keep the ball rolling. Starting in 2013, the organization has been growing, and has featured such artists as Free Salamander Exhibit, Jack o' the Clock, Nik Turner, Cabezas de Cera, Miriodor, Thinking Plague, and many more. » Read more

2018-11-16
The Seventeenth Dream of Dr Sardonicus Festival Tickets Now Available – Fruits de Mer Records and their merry crew of psychedelic explorers are getting set to present the next The Seventeenth Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival. The dates are set for August 2-4, 2019 at The Cellar Bar in Cardigan, Wales. They've also announced that the legendary Groundhogs will top the bill. » Read more

2018-11-02
Charles O'Meara (C.W. Vrtacek) RIP – A true musical original has left us. Charles O'Meara, who recorded under the name C.W. Vrtacek, was a wild-card musical talent, ranging from complex progressive rock to introspective modern compositions, with stops at many places inbetween. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Univers Zéro - Clivages – The word "darkness" is often prominently mentioned in descriptions of the music of Univers Zéro, and there are certainly aspects of this newest release that fit that mold. However,...  (2011) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues