Thursday, October 7, 2004
American Standard | SteelCage Records
This is a complete miracle. These grizzled Northern New Englanders were backup band to the notorious and late GG Allin 20 years ago and, with that in mind, one would expect the worst kind of easily ignored musical travesty. Instead, we get crunchy ‘60s garage plus vintage 1977 punk topped by former Queers’ vocalist Wimpy Rutherford, recorded strictly low-fi and, as such, a total relief, given what these guys’ kids (or grandkids at this point) probably would sound like.
Disregarding the unneeded and overdone “I Wanna Be Your Dog” cover, the balance is smoking, crude and vile, and unceasingly catchy and funny too. “Porno Stars and Muscle Cars” and “Hang You High” sport perfect sing-alongs, the cover of Bob McKenzie’s classic “Don’t Talk to Me” sounds like the Nuggets tribute it was intended to be, and Rob Basso’s psychedelic guitar blare lends real color to the three-chord drone. Plus, special guest “singer” Zola Santiago’s sweet asides take some of the edge off for comic relief and (hard to believe this) melody.
Punk bands off today are clean, they whine, and they’re pro-tooled as heavily as Britney Spears. This is the dirty, roaring, raucous opposite. I love it. (JA)
Disconnected | Bomp
Between his career as mewling Dead Boys front-man and Iggyphile, and his stentorian stint as semi-Goth Laird of some New Church, Mr. Bators revealed his roots as closet Raspberries fan and paisley crooner on this 1980 disc, now reissued by Bomp. Jangling chords replace the power and distortion wall that the Dead Boys called home, and Paul McCartney became major influence #1.
Admirable in its way, of course, but without much of a vocal range, nor the ability to make melody in that narrow spectrum, Stiv’s output here is merely pleasant at best and easily ignored at worst. Covering the Electric Prunes and regretting his life as “evil boy” are the highpoints, the rest dissipate into the ether. From a collector’s viewpoint, the greatest cheat here is that the original disc had a live track on it that was a mess, but had better tunes, including “Sonic Reducer” and the Choir’s “It’s Cold Outside.” Seek the first version; let this one pass. (JA)
THE F**cking AM
Gold | Drag City
When San Francisco’s The F**cking Champs released their first record (puzzlingly titled C4AM95 III), it was so amazingly progressive that it created expectations that they have been unable to live up to in subsequent releases. It resurrected extreme Brian May fretwork, complicated notions of composition in ways that haven’t been seen since King Crimson, and raised the credibility of the overdriven guitar to the level of an orchestral instrument. They achieved a lofty plateau—but got stuck there, used up their resources too quickly, and had to start recycling.
Three releases later, there is The F**cking Am’s Gold, the second collaboration between The F**cking Champs and Chicago’s Trans Am—hence the composite of their names. Thankfully, Trans Am’s clumsy influence is negligible here and really only pronounces itself on “The Gauntlet.” The exaggerated, Manfred Mann-like classic rock sound that can be heard throughout Gold suggests that what was once a highly stylized aspect of The Champs’ aesthetic has taken over and become a kind of tiresome, ongoing joke. Gold closes with the “Gomez” variations, the treatment of a theme that moves from light acoustic arrangements to plugged, driving rock ‘n’ roll. File under R for “redundant.” (MB)