Indie label Touch and Go has cracked open the vaults to re-release this platter of new wave punk from erstwhile Austin, Texas act Cargo Cult. It is unlikely that there is much public clamoring for the reissue; fortunately, it is a pretty solid effort. Recorded in early 1986, the record careens through Bad Brains-style hardcore ("Misfortune Cookie") and fare that exhibits influences including Agent Orange ("Mayday" sounds a heck of a lot like AO's "Everything Turns Grey") and Gang of Four. Notably, Cargo Cult included former and future members of the Big Boys, Jesus Lizard and Tomahawk.
The more straightforward material ("Okie Crude", "Waiting for Butterflies") fails to capture much attention, as the styles exhibited have since been co-opted by thousands of other bands (or so it often seems). However, darker numbers, like album closer "Mekong Delta Blues", "Underworld" and "Pimp Posse", recall the interesting clash of musical styles typical of music of the era. "Pimp Posse" in particular stands out as a potent amalgamation of tribal beats, ghostly feedback, spectral vocals and oppressive atmosphere. Unfortunately, such exciting material has to share time with other compositions that, though flawlessly executed, are only mildly compelling (such as the aforementioned "Waiting for Butterflies"). Listeners interested in revisiting a period of time in which alternative music was experiencing interesting growing pains will enjoy Strange Men Bearing Gifts. Others will probably scratch their heads and wonder why Touch and Go felt so strongly about the material as to re-release it.