I bet you are thinking to yourself, “why on earth do I need to read a review about some late 1980’s hardcore band that no-one remembers of even cares about”. Well the reason that I wanted to draw this to your attention is that Arsenal was the final pre-law school band of Santiago Durango, the bass player for Naked Raygun and most importantly Big Black. When Albini folded Big Black and then went on to his finest hour in the terrifyingly great Rapeman, Durango moved on to Arsenal which he may have been the only member of (I stand to be corrected – info is limited). Now at the time that Durango was releasing the mighty Manipulator EP on Blast First, Albini was creating all sorts of fuss with Rapeman to the point that his much protested tour of the UK ended in the band breaking up. I suspect that Arsenal kind of got starved of oxygen at the time. Durango then went on to release the Factory Smog Is a Sign Of Progress EP on Touch and Go and then ceased to exist. The CD of Factory ….. that I tracked down on amazon also includes the Manipulator EP. The only other place Arsenal every appeared was on the famous Devils Jukebox 10 x 7inch single boxset that Blast First put out in the late 1980’s. The single fro that compilation, Little Hitlers, appears on Manipulator.
So there you have it – a career of nine released tracks all contained on an out of print but easily available CD. The music itself mines a much more straight forward hardcore path. The chilling obliqueness of Big Black is set to one side for a more music friendly approach. It is still a ferocious record (particularly the four tracks that make up the Manipulator EP) and the reason I recommend it is that it is absolutely soaked with “that” bass sound. If you have spent any time with Big Black you will know what I mean. If I was to nerd-out and create my late 1980’s hardcore supergroup then the role of bass player would have been given to Durango. His playing is easily identifiable and, well, it makes me very happy hearing it again outside of the context of Big Black. If you have any interest in mid-western hardcore from this period then Arsenal is worthwhile hearing. It is a bit of a lost gem quite frankly.