No joke: Capital Punishment—featuring Ben Stiller on drums—cut a great album in 1982. Its being reissued Sept. 14.
No joke: Capital Punishment—featuring Ben Stiller on drums—cut a great album in 1982. It's being reissued Sept. 14. Dave Stekert

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Capital Punishment, “Muzak Anonymous” (Captured Tracks)

To be frank, I had no idea that comic actor Ben Stiller was a musician, let alone played in a seriously warped post-punk group called Capital Punishment. (The band members claim that they were influenced by Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Brian Eno, and Chrome, which is not hyperbole.) Capital Punishment's other members consisted of a future Arizona Supreme Court Justice [Peter Swann], a Slavic Studies professor [Peter Zusi], and a musician/documentarian whose family built the Brooklyn Bridge [Kriss Roebling].

Thanks to Captured Tracks, that band's 1982 album, Roadkill, will be back in circulation, in remastered and expanded form, on September 14. Let the record show that I now have a totally new respect for the esteemed star of Zoolander and Permanent Midnight. Who knew that when he was a high-schooler, Stiller was keeping (pretty odd) time for a bunch of weirdos whose lone release sounds like it could've been on Ralph Records?

Speaking of which, "Muzak Anonymous" wobbles ominously with the misfit gait of Snakefinger, Fred Frith, or Tuxedomoon at their Ralphiest. There's something almost goofily new wave about the arch vocals concerning the debilitating effects of consumerism and the mock-disco, clapper beats, but the wonky, metallically twangy guitar tone and eerie melody tilt the song into the realm of Chrome's "SS Cygni"—a very cool realm in which to dwell.

Read Rolling Stone's recent interview with Stiller and Roebling here.