Copping their name from William S. Burroughs' euphemism for ejaculation, Thin White Rope was founded in Davis, California in 1984. Although the time and place of their formation aligned them with both the Paisley Underground and roots rock movements, the group quickly staked out its own musical territory, divining their own unique brand of dark, surreal, desert rock. Thin White Rope was led by singer/guitarist Guy Kyser, whose harsh, tightly coiled vocals and unsettling lyrics combined to give the band its edge; in the group's first incarnation, Kyser was joined by guitarist Roger Kunkel, bassist Kevin Staydohar (soon replaced by Steven Tesluk), and drummer Jozef Becker.
While Thin White Rope's 1985 debut Exploring the Axis flirted with neo-psychedelia, the 1987 follow-up Moonhead upped the ante by allowing the desperation of Kyser's lyrics to take full command of the music. Unrelentingly grim and harrowingly provocative, the album's best songs -- like "Crawl Piss Freeze" and "If Those Tears" -- were postcards from the edge. Following the addition of new bassist John von Feldt, 1988's In the Spanish Cave continued along the same path, albeit with a renewed sense of humor ("Mr. Limpet") and more oblique wordplay.
Though garnering little notice stateside, Thin White Rope earned a solid fan base in Europe, and even became the first American independent-label act to tour the Soviet Union. 1990's Sack Full of Silver, a collection of songs written while on tour abroad, featured new drummer Matthew Abourezk as well as a newly focused sonic attack; the album also featured a left-field rendition of Can's "Yoo Doo Right," a hint of things to come on the 1991 all-covers EP Squatters' Rights.
1991's full-length The Ruby Sea, a dense, atmospheric work highlighted by the riveting "Clown Song," proved to be Thin White Rope's studio swan song: in 1992 the band split, and while most of the players continued performing in various musical projects, Kyser devoted himself to a career as a botanist. The posthumous The One That Got Away 6-28-92 Ghent, a two-disc live set recorded in Belgium peppered with odd covers of Lee & Nancy's "Some Velvet Morning," Bob Dylan's "Outlaw Blues," and Hawkwind's "Silver Machine" appeared in 1993. Spoor, a collection of demos, remixes, and rare tracks, followed two years later. ~ Jason Ankeny