The Flamin' Groovies-SUPERSNEAKERS CD (Sundazed)
Smegma-THIRTYYEARSOFSERVICE CD (Radon)
My current Groovies obsession kicks into high gear with the (re)appearance of this oft-neglected disque that (along with Sundazed's CALIFORNIA BORN AND BRED platter which I can't for the life of me locate within my cache) once again showcases the group during their Roy Loney-period when they were the stars of 99-cent bins nationwide. Well actually I'm getting ahead of myself, since this particular Groovies platter contains the entirety of the band's very first self-made 10-inch album (which never made it into any cheapo bins I've come across!) along with some pertinent live tracks dating from the same period in time and thus are "relevant" to the entire scope of things. And for a guy who was a follower of the Groovies credo back in them olden times (otherwise known as the late-seventies/early-eighties) for the life of me I could never find SNEAKERS in just about any form (including the mid-seventies Skydog reissue) until it was reissued by Line in the early-eighties. You could say that this particular disque does have some sentimental value to me, and maybe you'd be just a little tinkling itty bitty right.
I must stress the word "some", since when I first spun SNEAKERS I was rather er...surprised. I guess it was my youthful inexperience as well as my punk rock chauvinism for lack of a better description that had me walkin' away from SNEAKERS thinking it was nothing but good-timey music that obviously would disconnect with a guy such as I who was pretty much born and bred on the Detroit spasms of GREASE and mop top enthusiam of SHAKE SOME ACTION. I guess that my "finer" feelers for different styles and formats of rock & roll weren't quite engaged at this time...like f'rinstance I used to have an aversion to pre-British Invasion-era rock probably due to the overexposure of giddy fifties worship throughout the seventies while anything that wasn't worthy of playing the stages of CBGB or Max's (or at least the styles of music that I thought played there) was somehow suspect. After years of proper thought and a re-evaluation of my musical credo I must admit that's all changed but the question remains...what do I NOW think about SNEAKERS as well as the bonus live tracks presented on this piece of plastic anyway?
Surprisingly I really found myself enjoying this pre-Epic whacked-over San Fran goodtimey rock to the rafters. Sure it ain't the Little Richard filtered through the Sonics buzz of the Kama Sutra albums nor the slow burn intensity of the Sire period, but it's way-better San Francisco rock than much of what was being passed off as West Coast innovation and precociousness back then. Besides Bill Graham hated the whole lot of 'em, so maybe they just hadda be good?
The thirties nostalgia tracks are instantly dated (I still remember how my mother thought that the late-sixties BONNIE & CLYDE/thirties-forties pop song cops were nothing but aimed barbs at her generation!) but I don't care one bit, and at least the Spoonful/Moby Grape influence gives this a truer SF sound and feel than even the early Jefferson Airplane, a group that had a lot to do with the early Groovies style even if the folks at KICKS magazine would've been the last ones to admit it. Overall this is a great debut that naturally points the way for greater things to come within the span of a few short years.
The remaining tracks recorded live at the Matrix prove just how indebted the Groovies were to the better moments of SF Ballroom aesthetics. The Spoonful influence (big in the burgh at the time re. such group workings as the Sopwith Camel for one example) are obvious enough to the point where the band even does three of their numbuhs (well, two of 'em are mere "arrangements") and in fact this entire gig opening for Sandy Bull of all people does have that Ballroom "feeling" which would creep away from 'frisco once the LSD had done its damage and groups actually thought they were creating something meaningful and "for the ages" whilst jamming on Marin County back porches and producing records like MANHOLE. Again, the occasional thirties bent might not settle too well with some of you but I don't mind it even though when I hear music like this I'm more or less zoned back to the days when the only things that mattered to my pudge of a body were Peanuts paperbacks and Corgi Toys!
***You're probably wondering just how in the world I could couple up a review of noise-rock pioneers Smegma in with the teenage garage-rockin' Groovies considering how "poles apart" their styles and approaches are. Well, believe it or not but both acts have at least a few things in common not only their California roots but the fact that both acts worked with Richard Meltzer in various capacities and covered "Rumble", so at least with these tangential connections why not lump 'em together just for the sake of lumping?
THIRTYYEARSOFSERVICE is actually a pretty old 'un having been rec'd in 2003, and for the life of me I can't fathom how this disque missed my target for all these years. Not only is this classic oh-oh's-period Smegma with R. Meltzer handling the lead vocals, but joining the group is none other than Stooge saxist Steve Mackay giving the proceedings an even more free-jazzy ambiance to be chic about it.
The entire performance is one massive segue into various Smegma's deep throb workouts, some resembling free-play one would have expected from Roscoe Mitchell while others dwell deep into the inner addled mind that Smegma's music has represented for nigh on three-plus decades awlready. Meltzer's intermittant howls of poetic injustice naturally add the proper late-seventies disastopunk feel and dimension to this platter (and of course "legitimize" it even more for me considering how I'm always looking for pertinent "hooks" to hang my own musical prejudices on) and what's best about this is that just when you're lulled into a nice comfy sense of amorphous complacency the group goes whole hog into some hotcha rock & roll that reflects a more seventies riff-drone attack more akin to all of your favorite self-produced noisemongers of the past forty years (emphasis on the first ten!). And right at the end of it all some femme warbler jumps into the mix to belt out a wild cruncher that should have just about everyone within listening range holler..."wha' wuz that???"
For those of you who yearn for even more throb thrills, just listen to the "hidden track" which might be the best out of nowhere album closer ever at least since "Cheeseburger" on Sandy Bull's DEMOLITION DERBY... rilly!