When I was going through my record collection looking for long out-of-print material, I was pretty sure that Head Down-Hand Out and Under Water by Washington D.C.'s Crippled Pilgrims wouldn't be available on CD. I knew of the group largely as a local act growing up outside D.C. (and they weren't even that popular there). But to my surprise and delight, Reaction Recordings has reissued the band's entire recorded output on a single CD, Down Here: Collected Recordings (1983-1985).
Crippled Pilgrims were the right band in the wrong place during the wrong time with the wrong name. Back in the early eighties D.C. was known mostly for harDCore (Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Govt. Issue, etc.). But Crippled Pilgrims were closer in sound and spirit to fellow D.C. misfits The Velvet Monkeys (in fact legendary Velvet Monkey's drummer The Rummager sat in on drums for the band's early gigs). It probably didn't help that the name Crippled Pilgrims kind of sounds like it could belong to a hardcore band. But Crippled Pilgrims sound was quite far removed from the orthodoxies of the harDCore scene. Instead they played a variation of college rock that mixed parts psychedelia, depressive U.K. post-punk, and jangly, Byrdsian guitars. Eventually this kind of music would become known as "alternative" rock. If Crippled Pilgrims had hailed from L.A. they would have been lumped together with The Rain Parade and The Dream Syndicate as part of the "Paisley Underground" and sold a decent amount of records. Likewise, if they had gotten their start in D.C. circa 1990, they would likely sold respectably on Mark Robinson's indie-pop Teen Beat label. But in 1984, nobody in D.C. knew quite what to make of their music, so they languished in obscurity.
In many ways the Crippled Pilgrims music sounds like a lot of "alternative" music that has followed in the band's invisible wake. But, perhaps because songwriter Jay Moglia and guitarist Scott Wingo more or less stumbled upon the ingredients in their sonic stew by happenstance rather than allegiance to an already codified style, there is an element of freshness and innocence to it missing from much later alt-rock/indie-pop.
The liner notes to the CD are fantastic, shedding light on a little remembered band. Kudos again to Reaction Recordings, for saving some terrific music from eternal obscurity. The download "So Clean" is via Parasol's free downloads page. It's not the track I would have picked (I would have gone with "Black and White" or "People Going Nowhere" from the EP), but hopefully it's good enough to convince you that the rest of the CD is worth checking out, because it is.
So Clean [right click to download]