The Gizmos-RAW FIRST TAKES 1977 CD-R (available from slippytown.com)
The Strokes-ROOM ON FIRE CD (label? I dunno since I got my copy burned by Russell Desmond of CAN'T BUY A THRILL [li'l ol' name-dropper me!] fame)
In case you didn't know, the Gizmos weren't only one of the better mid-seventies punk rock supergroups, they were the only mid-seventies punk rock supergroup! Think of it, the mid-seventies, when punk rock was really punk rock, and I'm talkin' punk as a composite sixties-garage/Detroit spasm/Velvet Underground thick-glasses nerd and high-school decadent worship and throw in all of that extraneous stuff in while you're at it style and form. You know what I'm talkin' about...rock bands that were studying their punk poses from the cover of the Hackamore Brick album before the Ramones came out, utilizing the same unmitigated drive that gave us all of those cheap recordings made in the garages of EARTH (Rocket From the Tombs, Umela Hmota, Rat Squeezers...) at a time when, well, hardly anyone knew or perhaps cared! Y'know, the punk that walked proud before the punque sniveled, best sought out in the pages of all of those crazed seventies fanzines I've mentioned over and over who either shone brightly or nova'd out of existence. Thaz the Gizmos!
You probably have all of their now-legit CDs by now (though I passed on the later ones with nil original members since I used to own that split LP with Dow Jones and the Industrials and I thought it was such a gnu wave disappointment that I slapped that one on the "sell" pile pronto!!!!!!) and if so bully for you, but if you want the entire, complete story (to date, that is) get hold of this limited-edition CD NOT released by Gulcher but by former Gizguy Eddie Flowers on his own Slippytown label. It's only twenty minutes and some seconds long but it's cheap enough and not only that but you get more of the great Gizmos sound that epitomized what punk rock was all about long before these current pseudo-hippies started cropping up advocating a POLICE STATE for the benefit of young maladjusted trust fund kiddies soiling the good name of punk for all eternity!
And this is the real punk as well. I mean, just take a gander at that cover snap with the seventies hairstyles right outta the Brick, not to mention the chunky pseudo-metal chording inherent on the grooves, er, whatever they have on CDs and the general vavoom you just couldn't get outta all those bands you see on the cover of SPIN these days (who seem to be hopping on the THIS IS THE GROUP THAT MATTERS, NOBODY ELSE DOES THIS WEEK LIKE THESE WORLD-SAVERS!!!! bandwagon just like ROLLING STONE used to do long ago!) because the Gizmos were way closer to the taproot of the punk matter'n not washed out by two decades of someone drilling into our heads that you just hadda mix Marx and monobeats (that's my term for the metronome/"motorific" primitive Maureen Tucker style of drumming used in varying degrees by Scott Asheton, Jaki Leibzeit, Twink, Ikue Mori in her DNA days, Nancy Arlen in Mars and VON LMO amongst many others).
And talking about punk this far down the line, I finally get to hear one of the new breed of punk rock new on the evolutionary assembly line bands in the form of the Strokes. Yeah, these guys have been making waves for quite some time now along with others in their sphere like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but frankly it wasn't like I was rushing out to purchase anything this new generation of spew was putting out despite some advance interest in the YYY's wares. I mean, there was a time from the late-seventies until the mid-eighties when I would more or less grab hold of just about ANYTHING that got a "new Velvet Underground" tag hung on it because I figured that if we couldn't have the "real thing" at least there were a whole slew of aggros out there coming PRETTY CLOSE like the Patti Smith Group, early Talking Heads (at least until their art degrees got the better of 'em) and a whole garagefull more. I wised up eventually, but for my troubles hadda endure loads of subpar quap that really sullied a lotta things I grew to believe were actually holy, in a rock way at least.
So how do the Strokes hold up??? "What Ever Happened" sounds like slightly-invigorated eighties alternative rock with a phony John Lennon vocal. Things got really sad on "12:51" with more of those eighties synth sounds and sappy drone along with the typically over-emotional vocals bringing back bad memories of horrid eighties/nineties alternative nightmares that were nothing more than the aural variation of laxatives. (Hey, now I get it...X-tal=X-lax!!!) (And listen up all you Velvets freaks of the modern variety, as the GREAT Wayne McGuire once said, "The Velvet Underground's musical foundation in psychic, not emotional" and you better get that through your head NOW!!!!!!) And I thought that the opening early-Velvet-y chords to "You Talk Way Too Much" were going to show some promise, but then again the song has to go once again into that bad application of drone (which was at one time holy and pure...how these people could make it sound so sterile and meaningless really stymies me to no end!) mixed with 21st Century post-boredom living that really makes me wanna cry thinking about the hours I would spend tracing the Velvet Underground influence tree through garage bands this and punk history trends that only to have it all end up tasting like SOUR TREE SAP!!!!!
Hey, there are some bright moments here..."Meet Me In The Bathroom" (glad Desmond didn't supply me with a lyrics sheet) sounds like the Strokes were paying some attention to Kevin Ayers while "Under Control" has enough pop wit and spark to make it...mediocre, which is better'n what a lotta the competition on the sensitive young iconoclast market can muster up. But these moments are just that, and although rock & roll was a music made for the moment that doesn't mean that the greatness has to last a nanosecond like it might here and there. The Strokes do make a try at it, but in the long run all I got for my listening troubles were the same over-used cliches that weren't that original in the first place and face it, have hardly anything to do with the original thrust of the likes of the MC5 and all that crazy high-energy that was being birthed FORTY YEARS AGO if you can swallow that fact down your tightening throat! It's almost like what Lester Bangs wrote in his Laughner obit, about the line of intensity that started with Brando and the beats going through Elvis and the Stones to the Velvets, Stooges and Patti up to what Bangs called the "ersatz jive" of Suicide, only Bangs jumped the rung by a punk generation or two. The real degenerating didn't begin until much later, when the eighties alternative mode (seventies accomplishment meets seventies Joni Mitchell neurosis) got in gear with a load of bad-drone bands petering down to these brand-spanking-new punks that seem so far off the original course you'd swear they were floating around in the Arctic Sea or somethin'!
Maybe the Strokes deserve an "atta boy" for their ol' college radio try, but I'd prefer them to spend their precious World-Saving time listening to real punks like the Gizmos in order to get the pure unadulterated beat down pat, and less posing in front of the mirror. Still, I'd prefer to spend my time and effort and sheckels listening to the Gizmos ranting on about eating like pigs at McDonalds (oh, how offensive that would be to the British "anarchist" punque brigades!) and acting like true-blue 100% Amerigan slobs all to a really spiff Velvet Underground-cum-metal beat than I would to the Strokes struggling and mostly falling flat on their faces. You know, I don't even know if those guys would want to waste time watching old black & white TV shows and eating junk food and more or less DO THEIR PATRIOTIC DUTY like the Gizmos would...heck, sometimes I picture all of 'em at the college library in the magazine section pouring through not old music mags searching for interesting past reference points but brainy and stifling arts and political periodicals. Is that it, alternative rock as the revenge of Dilton Doiley???
Saturday, July 31, 2004
The Gizmos-RAW FIRST TAKES 1977 CD-R (available from slippytown.com)