I first heard of the near mythical Rocket from the Tombs in Clinton Heylin's book From the Velvets to the Voidoids. Alongside the tales of household names like the Ramones, Patti Smith and Blondie, there was quite a lot of space devoted to a band from Cleveland, Ohio that I had never heard of, never mind actually heard! It seemed that actually hearing them would prove nearly impossible, as Rocket from the Tombs had existed for less than a year and never recorded anything in a studio. I was intrigued by their legacy, and by how their conflicting blend of hard rock and avant-garde set the blueprint for a lot of later American punk bands.

That conflict which split the short-lived band was between the Beefheart/free jazz/art-rock faction, comprising vocalist Crocus Behemoth (aka David Thomas) and guitarist Peter Laughner who soon afterwards formed the first incarnation of Pere Ubu and the Stooges/MC5 faction of Johnny Blitz and Cheetah Chrome - who went on to form the nihilistic Dead Boys together with occasional Rocket member Stiv Bators.

For many years the Rocket from the Tombs remained the stuff of legend, but demand to hear their music meant that this collection of songs saw a limited release in 2002 as The Day the Earth Met Rocket from the Tombs. Now it has been reissued by Fire records to coincide with the release of Bar Fly, which is unbelievably a brand new album from the band.

So if they never properly recorded anything until recently, what exactly is The Day the Earth Met Rocket from the Tombs? Well, it's a collection of 19 songs culled mostly from live sessions and rehearsals between February and July 1975. It's not quite everything that they recorded in their first incarnation, but it is close to it. As it consists of straight recordings of live performances, presumably never meant to be released, the quality is pretty lo-fi, but when you bear in mind that these are songs at the demo stage and they hadn't actually been played that many times by the fledgling band, it;s remarkable how much of this stands up.

Many of RFTT;s original songs will be familiar to fans of their subsequent bands. There are rough and ready versions of 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, Life Stinks and Final Solution here, which were subsequently recorded by Pere Ubu and are still regarded as classics by fans of that band.

Similar prototype versions of 'Aint it Fun', 'Down in Flames' and 'Sonic Reducer' are also included on this, which in turn became essential to the future output of the Dead Boys. The versions of '30 Seconds...' and 'Sonic Reducer' are two of the major highlights here in fact, the formers extended white-out section pre-dating a lot of noise-rock by quite a few years.

There are a handful of covers dotted around, including an largely instrumental take on the Stooges Raw Power and a 20-second-long attempt at Satisfaction by the Stones. A romp through another Stooges tune 'Search and Destroy' is more successful, but by far the best of the covers is the Velvet Underground's 'Foggy Notion' which they manage to make sound like their own.

A lot of this collection is centred around Peter Laughner's incendiary guitar playing, which benefits from the primitive recording techniques which make it sound completely on edge. It's a genuine shame that he died in 1977 before his talent was ever recognised and before the music that he helped write and influence had found an audience. His songs here, such as 'Amphetamine', are bleak and deal with the emptiness that led to the substance abuse that took his life. Ain't it Fun is the most notorious, brought to a wider audience by Guns n Roses on their maligned punk covers album the Spaghetti Incident, but heard here in all its stripped back bleakness.

Laughner's other songs on here which didn't go on to grace the albums of other bands are still well worth hearing. Both 'So Cold' and 'What Love Is' have amazingly abrasive guitar riffs and although the recordings are un-produced and occasionally distorted, you can hear the raw talent here.

Rocket from the Tombs disintegrated before Laughner's death and never recorded under that name until now, a decision which has taken many by surprise. Has there been an instance in musical history where a band has waited for 37 years to record its first proper album?

This current line-up features the original members David Thomas, Cheetah Chrome and Craig Bell. Peter Laughner's place was taken by Television's Richard Lloyd, a guitarist who presumably considers Laughner an influence as well as a contemporary while Pere Ubu's current drummer Steve Mehlman fills the vacant drummer position.

Although this is obviously a much more polished album made by musicians with decades of experience behind them, RFTT still straddle the two stools between quirky art-rock and straight-ahead garage punk.

'I Sell Soul' is a storming intro to the album, managing to blend the two sides of the band together and underlining the influence that these musicians have had on the careers of people like the Pixies, for example. 'Birth Day' is slower and quirkier, and sounds exactly as you might expect a collaboration between the singer from Pere Ubu and a guitarist from Television to sound. Whilst a few tracks echo the proto-punk and avant garde influences, the majority of Bar Fly is straighter, more mainstream rock. 'Butcherhouse 4' is a highlight though, with a creepy telephonic vocal refrain and some sci-fi effects. Bar Fly sounds like a lot of musicians enjoying themselves but ultimately it can never compete with the extensive legacy that the primal early recordings gave to the band. The Day the Earth Met... is an essential slice of punk-rock archaeology, while Bar Fly is an enjoyable but non-essential update to the Rocket From the Tombs story.