Detroit and its ring of suburbs didn’t offer much to its youth in the way of an active, engrossing punk community in the early 1990s, or at least not one many kids felt welcome in. Just a bar or two tended by folks who’d look the other way when anyone underage would walk in to see the handfuls of consciously uncommercial local bands that likely would never share a stage in any other city, while the threat of racist skinhead violence occasionally roiled through the club. The closest thing to a “cohesive” sound came in the form of the straightedge punk style imported from the east coast, born anew in the brawniest Midwestern mosh pits in the late 1980s. What for those who saw little of themselves in the angry young men sporting hoodies and hands with sharpied Xs who were hectoring crowds about brotherhood and unity, but sought to channel all that power into something more melodic and spiritual?
Clues from the nation’s capitol crept into Michigan record stores and zines, and five punks who’d been kicking around the straightedge scene found their voice in those piercing, soaring songs. They gathered in a storage unit in suburban Plymouth in July 1992. A rhythm section whose bassist was just learning his instrument; a guitarist whose mighty, sparse riffs could punch a whole in a factory wall; and a pair of vocalists whose volleying voices called forth words that were made up on the spot, or often felt like they were spat out in the heat of the moment. The jam session birthed an EP, recorded not even a week later at Tempermill Studios in Ferndale, all the nervous energy and urgency of the previous week smoldering through the recordings. “Slivered Lead,” with its ratatat drums slicing through typhon-waves of guitars while Scott Ray’s stucco vocals mirror Matthias Weeks’s trilling holler, has enough boiled-over intensity to suggest these guys were attempting to power their neighborhood’s electrical grid through song. That energy would go to good use as the band, dubbed Current, trimmed down the material to a neat four songs to press onto vinyl, all in the hopes that some yearnsome souls clinging to punk’s undercarriage may find themselves in this music. And Current, too, would soon discover a kinship with a small, scattered community of musicians around the country who were also tweaking and experimenting with a post-hardcore sound the history books now call emo.