Uncle Acid’s New Release Is a Reminder That Live Albums Still Rule

Photo: Mel Castro

The era of Youtube and Hate5six videos begs an important question: do live albums still matter? Are they worth releasing?

Obviously that answer is going to vary for everyone. With the ever-increasing popularity of Youtube and TikTok, it’s harder for some listeners to justify spending the time or money on a new live album. However, a well-constructed live album presents a specific, controlled version of a band. When done right, they’re a document of where an artist is at a particular time, how they interpret their older (and current) work and how they want us to see it.

These are all thoughts I had while listening to Slaughter on First Avenue, the newly-released live album from UK-based retro masters and Decibel faves Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats. Recorded over the course of two nights at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Slaughter on First Avenue begins with a straightforward message:

“Tonight you will be subjected to an all-out audio assault that will begin here shortly. There will be no respite from this until we release you. The group will show no mercy, and will likely not communicate with you. There will be no dynamics and a complete disregard for expectation. It will all sound the same. Do you understand?”

That warning ends up being not completely true. Obviously there are dynamics and not every song sounds the same—Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats released five albums between 2010 and 2018—but it’s loud and raw, the way rock and roll was intended to be played. Singer-guitarist Kevin Starrs explained that the band prefers to perform shows with no banter or stage talk between songs; they would rather just tear through the set and let the music speak for itself.

The performance is heavy, particularly on songs like “Pusher Man” from 2015’s The Night Creeper and “Ritual Knife” from 2012’s Blood Lust. Speaking of that album, their performance of “I’ll Cut You Down,” the penultimate song of their performance, sounds positively evil. After 85 minutes, the album ends on the doomy “No Return,” playing a shorter version than is on Wasteland. It leaves a gloomy vibe over the listener as it fades out into noise, a nice bookend alongside the warning message played at the beginning of the concert.

Starrs promises a new album “at some point without warning or explanation” but until then, Slaughter on First Avenue is a gnarly career retrospective that reminds us why Uncle Acid are one of the most essential rock bands of the last 15 years.