Friday, July 25, 2008

more mc5 and groovies



MC5's High Time, the follow up to Back in the USA, turns the dark passage between the late 60s and the early 70s into an occasion for an apocalyptic party. The music may not be as easy to absorb at first, but the album's chaotic atmosphere eventually sinks in, evoking a sense that compromise with the powers that be is very much a thing of the past. 'Atom bombs, Viet Nam, missiles on the moon. And they wonder why their kids are shootin' drugs so soon...' The album is ominous sounding but somehow still has infectious enegy. You will be hard pressed to find a song that rocks more furiously than High Time's opening track, "Sister Anne", the anti-hero of which has 'the ten commandments tattooed on her arm' and is the personification of a new and freeing amorality. 'Sister won't you tell me where I went so wrong/I used to say my prayers baby all night long/I'd listen to the gospel ringing in my ears/Come on sister Anne save me from my fears/if you can...' The songs on High Time tend to be longer, a bit looser in places, and sometimes even unhinged sounding, all of which suggests that the band was knee-deep in drugs at this point. But this seems to intensify the fierce desperation of "Baby Won't Ya", "Future/Now" and "Poison", and it adds twisted incisiveness to the album's dark wordplay. 'Viet Nam, what a sexy war, Uncle Sam's a pimp, wants us to be whores...' In the end, High Time swings between resignation and an ongoing commitment to convulsive deliverance, but this conflict only adds to the album's explosiveness and makes the whole affair unique amongst the music of the Great Collapse.


Although The Flamin' Groovies keep things fairly primitive on Flamingo and Teenage Head, the band's sound becomes harder and more aggressive. The two albums dabble in many aspects of the Collapse - drugged out paranoia ("Comin' After Me", "Teenage Head","Headin' for the Texas Border"), rustic escapism ("Sweet Roll me on Down", "32-20", "Childhood's End"), moral and sexual depravity ("Jailbait","Second Cousin"), and burnt-out exhaustion ("High Flying Baby", "She's Falling Apart", "Whiskey Woman"). More so than even MC5's High Time, Flamingo and Teenage Head have a druggy quality about them that leaves you feeling like you're swimming in the social decrepitude of the early 70s. This may be depressing to hear on one level, but there's something perversely appealing about it, too. I cringe when I think about all the mainlining that must've been going on (I'm squeamish about needles and veins), but there's a part of me that wishes I could have been there and participated.




The Flamin' Groovies went the way of many victims of The Great Collapse after the release of Teenage Head, disappearing into a black hole of self abuse, but not before releasing an angusihed song about it in 1972, "Slow Death". The band disappeared for a few years and and then returned in 1976 as a Power Pop Beat revival group. Their Dave Edmunds produced gem from that year, Shake Some Action, is an outstanding collection of Anglophilic jangle, with harmonies that harken back to The Searchers, The Dakotas, and The Beatles... In the late 60s, the Groovies looked to the 50s for inspiration. Then in the mid 70s, the band looked to the mid 60s. I find Shake Some Action completely irresistible. It's one of my 'default' records - something I put on when I can't think of anything else I want to hear. But listening to it is also a strange experience because it's an album from the 70s that tends to bolster my somewhat unhealthy belief that the years from 1962 through 1966 represent the absolute peak of Western Civilization...










*Quick Note: I will probably be posting a little less frequently from now on - maybe like 2 times a week. I am going back to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for a two-week residency starting at the end of September, so I really need to try and get going on my book again. But I will definitely continue to post, so check in periodically, if the spirit moves you...

2 comments:

Molly Stevens said...

Is 62-66 a bit pre-collapse?

Hopefully posting will be a warm up for novel writing.
I look forward to reading here.

Max Stevens said...

Definitely pre-Collapse. ...Yeah, I need to get some momentum with the book.