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The Cast-Iron Canaries EP ‘Propagaga’ 30 Year Anniversary Reissue


Flashback to the Bay Area music scene of 1993 when a young, wildly talented and curiously dressed group of wise-minded kids from Santa Cruz might have just had a shot at having their names etched into the alt punk history books. The Cast-Iron Canaries were their name and unless you lived in the Bay Area in the early nineties you’ve most likely never heard of them. Word has it they were pretty outrageous, and there is now evidence that they were maybe even having a little ‘too much’ fun remaking punk in their own image. Their only known recording was their 4-song EP ‘Propagaga’ and it was something of a magically marginal treasure for those lucky few in the know. The master tapes were sadly believed to be lost forever, until being recently unearthed by producer/engineer Jonathan Burnside. Fast forward to 2023, and by some strange miracle we find ourselves commemorating the 30th anniversary of this wildly imaginative, criminally obscure little treasure.

The recording of ‘Propagaga’ is actually an intriguing story in itself. It came about because a young Tony DeCicco (vocals), James Beastly (guitar) Dave McKie (bass), Todd Sullivan (drums), became a little obsessed with recording their band at Razor’s Edge Studios, formerly located in a century-old victorian house in the Haight Ashbury district of SF. At the time it was owned by engineer/producer Jonathan Burnside, who’s recording credits boasted a big list of some of their favorite bands of that time including The Melvins, Lag Wagon and even Nirvana. The story goes that they wanted him to record them so badly that after he initially turned them down for good reason, they decided to drive up from Santa Cruz to try to change his mind with a magic bag of shrooms?!! Well, apparently despite the band’s questionably bad tactics he half-heartedly agreed. 

Those sessions turned out to be amazing, and yielded a wild ride of impressively explosive tracks featuring beautifully ferocious walls of guitar mayhem alongside Tony DeCicco’s jaw-dropping, hair raising yowls. “Eternal Prom Queen” hits the floor running as a fun fast number ending with no less than a full bizarre minute of a “Talking Barbie” doll over dissonant bass and colorful feedback. “All Dolled Up” is a roller coaster ride of outrageous glam punk exuberance, while the song “Peak” shows it’s slacker-indie charm with pretty jangly guitars and bouncing bass lines, and of course topping it off is their outrageously manic guitar-driven vision “Zoom”.

But despite their formidable talent, The Cast-Iron Canaries were by no means careerists, and when grunge was blowing up, they already seemed to have their sights set elsewhere (according to guitarist James Beastly) “We didn’t really know what we were doing. Honestly, it was like we were almost trying to fail, but only in the funnest ways imaginable”. Whether or not The Cast-Iron Canaries will ever resurface together as a band is a tough bet, but one thing’s for certain, their EP ‘Propagaga’ is by some wild miracle here to stay, and it serves as a surprising testament to the wild spirit of the Bay Area’s best early 90’s alt punk.