Even for fans of hardcore punk, The Locust must’ve been a jarring sight back in the late ’90s. They wore short-shorts and buggy goggles. They stood perfectly still and made droll wisecracks at the audience. As they churned out quick bursts of sci-fi grindcore, they let out a chorus of incoherent, blood-curdling screams.
As the years went on, The Locust gained a bigger reputation and got even weirder. Stripping down to a four-piece in 2001, they donned full-body insect outfits, brought in squeakier-sounding synths and threw down even more dizzying time-signature changes. Though they eventually brought a touch of refinement to their screams—you could finally understand what they were saying part of the time—they still attacked musical convention with merciless, savage zeal.
You can hear the band’s gradual evolution on Molecular Genetics from the Gold Standard Labs, a compilation of Locust material from 1997 through 2003. While the comp opens with cuts from Plague Soundscapes, released via Anti- in 2003, most of the tracks were previously released in various forms by Gold Standard Laboratories, an excellent label that went out of business in 2007, leaving some material out of print until now.
Though The Locust are famous for their supershort songs (many don’t break the one-minute mark), they cram every moment with intensity: Dissonant, metallic guitars get crushed against buggy-sounding synthesizers and harried, schizophrenic rhythms. “Moth-Eaten Deer Head” (the intro to The Locust’s 1998 debut full-length, included on the comp), with its tense, buzzing intro and gnarly, fist-pumping synth riff, feels epic even at 73 seconds.
And the song titles alone are entertaining. A mix of absurdist toilet humor (“Gluing Carpet to Your Genitals Does Not Make You a Cantaloupe”) and biting social commentary (“Stucco Obelisks Labeled as Trees”; “Kill Roger Hedgecock”), they’re as provocatively eccentric as The Onion’s headlines are hilarious.
Of course, a hardcore Locust fan would probably already have most everything on Molecular Genetics. But it makes an ideal entry point for the uninitiated listener: At 44 tracks and 37 minutes, it’s the most comprehensive view of The Locust yet. And for a band whose debut “full-length” album clocks in at a mere 16-and-a-half-minutes, that’s a deal you can’t pass up.