Adventures of a University Finalist

Friday, June 17, 2005

James Taylor Marked For Death


The MC5 - The Big Bang! The Best of... (Rhino, 2000)

The MC5 - I Can Only Give You Everything
The MC5 - Ramblin' Rose
The MC5 - Teenage Lust
The MC5 - The Human Being Lawnmower
The MC5 - Sister Anne
The MC5 - Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)

I've been flitting in and out of reading Lester Bangs's 'Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung' recently in my post-exam haze and he is indeed one of the finest writers I've ever come across. In his drug induced mania, he shoots off on existential tangents about the injustice found within bargain bins whilst talking about the Count Five and his "pre-balling years" accompanied by his pubescent fetish for female calves when he should rightly be deconstructing 'Wild Thing' by The Troggs. It's like pure adrenaline and as such has been relegated to small doses so far but when I journey up to Glasgow this Sunday I think that I'm going to have the best train ride ever accompanied by my lightweight tome.
In reading Bangs, I found that in his search for the base level zero on which all music rests and a band that acheives the essentail goal of stripping its sound down to that "troglodyte" level that in the process he keeps coming back to two of Detroit's ancestral primiteevs; the Stooges and the MC5. Now I saw the resurrected MC5/DKT at Reading Festival last year and I must say that with Mudhoney's Mark Arm shaking his tambourine, the Bellray's Lisa Kekaula bringing the old school soul holler and Wayne Kramer just being plain cool as fuck that they were the greatest live act that I have seen and will probably ever see.
Admittedly, I haven't included my personal favourite from their set - 'Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)' with its instinctual cry of "I'm the man for ya!" that I can just imagine made the great Bangs' hair stand on end. This is due to my belief that the Kick Out the Jams version somehow doesn't do it justice. Don't get me wrong; I love the late great Rob Tyner (not to the extent to berate the existence of DKT like some small minded journalists have tended towards - yes I'm looking at you arsehole who wrote that MC5 DVD review in Mojo... hippy) but his delivery on that version bends too much toward a generic Kick Out the Jams rip-off. Something that can never be said in regard to his attempt at falsetto on 'Ramblin' Rose', a song whose chorus does full justic to the existence of the metaphor "hit by a sledgehammer". Wow, what a song.
Two of the songs here are taken off the wildly reviled, Jon "I Saw the Future of Rock n' Roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen" Landau produced sophomore effort 'Back in the USA'. At the time, it was seen far too polished and admittedly, 'Teenage Lust' does tend toward a tightened up form of British Invasion pop that I personally really dig (for example, I L-O-V-E Shake Some Action era Flamin' Groovies material). 'The Human Being Lawnmower', on the other hand, is like nothing you've heard in your life with the drums all other the place except where they should be, Fred 'Sonic' Smith and Kramer's guitar screeching out blasphemous tones intertwining like a paralytic Thin Lizzy and the bit at 1.44 where it all begins to sound like a helicopter landing in Charlie infested jungle.
As you can tell, I adore the 5 but I haven't even gotten started regarding a song whose first 5 minutes and 48 seconds should be labelled in the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame under ' How to Rock Your Face Off'. When I hear it, I can just imagine Rob Tyner pacing the stage, hips shakin', afro sweat weighin down his head, until he became an uncontrollable mass of nerves pulsing at the exact frequency of the lay lines wrapping this hunk of rock we call Earth. As a result, if you do one thing download this song with its dual harmonica workout, boogie piano, "soul sister, brown sugar" backup singers and its chugging guitars that shouldn't be as jaw droppingly unbelievable as it so obviously is. Sometimes, the overly busy nature of a song that sounds like a drunken busload of musicians has been ferried into the recording studio can emanate such a vibe so succinctly that it's incomparable even by modern standards. Maybe that's why the 5, due to their inherently self-destructive nature, decided to ruin it so badly with that odd parping horn bollocks at the end. 'Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)' ain't too shabby either with its movement toward African rhythms overlaid by a goddamn brilliant guitar riff and then THAT horn breakdown. Both are key reasons to purchase the MC5's last effort before initially disbanding in 1972 - 'High Time'.

Buy - The MC5 - The Big Bang
Buy - Lester Bangs - Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung