R.I.P. Mike Kelley, Artist and Founding Member of '70s Freak Rock Band Destroy All Monsters

Categories: Obituaries
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Not only is the world mourning the death of Soul Train's Don Cornelius. But Crossfade is sad to report the passing of another iconic figure in music -- Mike Kelley, prolific visual artist and founding member of avant-punk agitators Destroy All Monsters.

Wrought from the same Nixon-era malaise that spawned boogie-oogie escapism, Destroy All Monsters not only foreshadowed the oncoming punk rock zeitgeist as early as '73. But it did so with a mess-making, artful clattering that was so far ahead of its time that it also predicted No Wave, noise, and the next three decades of "Is it art? Or is it drugs?" delirium.

After his departure, Destroy All Monsters went through many phases, notably as a greasy rock band not unlike its Detroit peers, The MC5 and The Stooges. But the group's initial burst -- the Mike Kelley era -- was its best and most original.



There's little documentation of the band in its first incarnation. But that's no problem because Cary Loren's film "1972-1976" features extensive sound from the band paired with worthy psychedelic imagery.

You don't get a total feel for Destroy All Monsters' cartoonishly freeform deconstruction of music -- one infamous concert featured a violin, a saxophone, a vacuum cleaner, and a coffee can to perform a cover of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" -- because the stage sets were obviously part performance art. But without a question, the images look like the music sounds.

We'll miss you, Mike.

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