Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Beautiful raw sounds of garage rock

Haven't been writing about music for a long time, even though I listen to records all the time I'm writing. Past few days I've been listening mainly to one record only: Instant Garage, compilation of sixties garage rock and acid punk that was delivered with the Mojo magazine. At the moment it's playing "Train Kept A Rollin" by Brave New World. Have you heard of them? You should. They play the ass-kickingest rock'n'roll ever heard on this planet. Man, oh man! Seen Blow-Out where the Yardbirds play the same song? It's a great scene and a great band, but Brave New World wipes the floor with those English snobs. (Must admit though that it's totally ripped off from the Yardbirds.)*

Garage rock, the original acid punk of the sixties, has always been and maybe will be for days to come my favourite music. Other styles and other bands come and go, but garage stays. I don't know why. Maybe it's the perfect combination of raw power and yet harmonious melodies. (Well, Brave New World isn't very harmonic...) The both got separated in the seventies, with some exceptions.

The record kicks off with MC5 playing "Kick Off the Jams". It's the "Kick off the jams, motherfuckers!" version, the normal live LP version says "Kick off the jams, brothers and sisters". Revolution never sounded so good. MC5 hasn't normally been called a garage band, even though its roots are heavily in the acid punk. There are also other anomalies in the compilation, such as the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boy Friend" (very nice song which I recorded into a love cassette for Elina at the beginning of our relationship) and New York Dolls' "Personality Crisis". There's also early Jonathan Richman and very angry, very punky "She Cracked". I don't know why Richman abandoned punk. I mean, he's great, but his punk songs are much better than his naive, sing-a-long children's rock.

There are many classics. The Sonics.. what more can I say. "Psycho". The last drum break gives me the willies. Paul Revere and the Raiders: "Just Like Me". Very nasty. The Count Five: "Psychotic Reaction", The Electric Prunes: "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" etc. etc. And there are also some total unknowns with grrreat tunes. I mean, what could be a better way to start a new life than to listen to the Artesians' "Trick Bag". The Artesians? Huh? Who they? I don't know, but they sure know how to rock the house.

There are also some great tunes that make me think that garage is an equivalent of noir paperbacks of the same era. Gil Bateman's "My Daddy Walked in Darkness" is a perfect example, brooding and nasty noir piece. The Sonics' "The Witch" is a teenage juvie paperback, about the sour relationships between boys and girls and the mean mean babe.

* I have another version on C cassette, by someone called Steve Walker and the Bold. It's wild and almost hysterical version and I would like to find out more about the outfit. I don't know the exact name of the band, but I presume it's the above. Anyone?

PS. I saw "Sin City" today. More about it later.

2 comments:

Todd Mason said...

You know, I've never actually seen a copy of the MC5's KICK OUT THE JAMS album that doesn't have the initially controversial line, "Kick out the jams, Motherfuckers!", version...certainly my vinyl copy of the album has that version, purchased (and presumably pressed) sometime in the early 1980s. I think most people would be relatively comfortable with the notion of the MC5 as avant-garage, if you will, given their sound, even if they were much more flashy (and capable of flash) than essentially any "real" garage band, what with the Sun Ra cover on that album and all. (My brother and I recorded a version of "Kick Out the Jams" about fifteen years ago in my parents' family-room, a tape which I treasure mostly because after our abbreviated version, featuring only my intentionally incoherent vocal and my brother's furious bass strumming, our mother came down the stairs with perfect timing and said very clearly and firmly, "Stop that right now, and don't Ever do that again." I seem to recall my brother and I shortly thereafter were on the floor, or nearly so, gasping for breath from laughter.)

The early Bangles were neo-garage, while the Go-Go's were punks (their earliest available recordings make them sound like younger female Dead Kennedys)...nostalgia. And I remember the Lyres..."Help You, Ann," indeed.

"Trick Bag" is a hell of a song, and a natural for a gb cover.

Then there's my own best recording, perhaps, a cover of Psychodrama's "Night of Love" translated poorly into Spanish as "Noche de amor"--"Sabes que tu pito pertinece/Todavia al Jesus..." (it's a charming ditty, from the SORRY, BUT...PSYCHODRAMA album--extreme DC-based garage/tape culture stuff from the 1980s), as a member of the Bunnies, with my brother on keyboards, Kevin Hall on guitar, some guy named Jeff on bass (sadly, my ex Donna didn't sit in on this recording, as she would on a few others we did that night), and David Brown playing a recurring figure on this silly little electronic sax toy. Oh, yes, I was providing percussion, banging keys against a beer bottle.

Now you know what you want for your birthday.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, the Psychodrama album is called WE'RE SORRY, BUT...PSYCHODRAMA (meant to suggest an apologetic MC).