An anti-rock band founded in direct reaction to the pretensions and complacency of 1970s pop music, the Detroit-based noise deconstructionists Destroy All Monsters earned their greatest attention at the peak of the punk era, thanks to a lineup that included alumni of the MC5 and the Stooges.
Named after a cult-favorite Japanese monster movie, Destroy All Monsters was formed in 1973 by art students Niagara (a former model), Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley, and Cary Loren; influenced by everything from underground comix to film noir to psychedelia, the highly visual group was experimental and abrasive, with Niagara's Betty Boop-vocals and squealing violin cresting atop waves of trance-like sonic dementia.
The original incarnation of Destroy All Monsters never widely released any official recordings, and by 1976 both Shaw and Kelley had exited to continue their graphic art careers, both later gaining considerable renown as underground talents. Niagara and Loren continued on, recruiting brothers Larry and Ben Miller (space guitar and saxophone, respectively); within six months, former Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and onetime MC5 bassist Michael Davis had also signed on, pointing the group's sound in a more dynamic and energetic direction. Upon releasing their first-ever single, 1978's "Bored," Destroy All Monsters became darlings of the British music press, based largely upon the connection to the Stooges' legacy; "Bored" was soon set for U.K. release on the Cherry Red label, which licensed the record before ever even hearing it.
Even as a second single, "Meet the Creeper," was being readied for release, Destroy All Monsters was coming apart; tensions within the group had come to a head when Niagara left longtime boyfriend Loren to hook up with Asheton, and soon Loren, as well as the Miller brothers, left the band over creative differences. In response, Loren issued a 1979 live EP, The Days of Diamonds; a year later, he, the Millers, and drummer Rob King formed Xanadu, recording an EP, Black-Out in the City, co-produced by Kelley and Shaw. Meanwhile, the remaining members of Destroy All Monsters carried on until 1985 before finally disbanding. In the wake of a 1994 box set, the original lineup occasionally re-formed to play live and record new material. A concert set, Live in Tokyo & Osaka, appeared in 2008. The discovery of a cache of unreleased Destroy All Monsters recordings led to the release of 2014's Hot Box, which featured rare and little-heard performances from both editions of the group. While Destroy All Monsters were inactive in 2015, Niagara could say she had an album in the charts -- one of her paintings was used as the cover artwork for Kid Rock's album First Kiss. Jim Shaw was also getting attention for his visual art in 2015, with a major retrospective of his work, "Jim Shaw: The End Is Near," receiving positive reviews after opening at the New Museum in New York City. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi