City Slang: Two brunettes and a Blondie

Nov 25, 2013 at 9:25 am

Blaire Alise & the Bombshells is the sort of band that can make a jaded old fuck get excited about new rock ’n’ roll. I wrote a City Slang feature about the band this week, but let’s insert some opinion here following an awesome triple bill at the New Dodge. While the rhythm section sits back a bit and guitarist Craig Adams allows us to see all of the sex faces in his sex-face-arsenal (of which there are many – one for each bend of a string), Alise takes control either by tearing the wooden heart out of her guitar, or by dancing like a go-go girl trying her hand at river dance. The set is over way too quickly; this writer would have been happy with another hour (at least) of their Shangri-Las-meets-Nancy-Sinatra rock. For people so young, the Bombshells sure visit an old school.

At this point, everyone knows what to expect from an Amy Gore & Her Valentines show. Incidentally, Gore was watching on while Alise performed with a look on her face that suggested she was comfortable that this music is in safe hands for the foreseeable future. When it was her turn to perform, Gore and her Valentines showed that they’re not totally ready to pass any baton over just yet. Thankfully, we don’t have to make a choice and, one after the other, the Bombshells and the Valentines displayed much of what is amazing about Detroit rock ’n’ roll. Gore ploughed and purred through tunes like “Drivin’ Around,” plus their killer cover of Cheap Trick’s “He’s a Whore,” all throwaway riffs, harmonies and big hooks, then made way for the headliners with a smile.

The Split Squad is one of those weird things – a sort of New York punk rock supergroup, although you really only know one of the names. That name is, of course, Blondie’s Clem Burke (the subject of a Motor City Five interview this week). We only had room for a short portion of the transcribed interview in the paper, so here’s exactly what Burke told us about the Split Squad.
“This band came together through a group of mutual friends, as most of my extracurricular do. This band consists of Eddie Munoz, who was the guitarist in the Plimsouls from day one. I did an album with him, I was in the band for a while, and we did an album called Cold Trash. Eddie’s been a friend for a long, long time. I met him in Austin some years back, and he actually came on a Blondie tour. He was guitar-teching for Dave Edmunds. He’s remained a friend. We had a band together with Cyril Jordan (Flamin’ Groovies) called the Magic Christian, that Eddie was in with me. I enjoy playing with Eddie, he’s a great guitar player. Keith Streng from the Fleshtones is also in the band, so it’s kind of like a side project for him. The singe/bass player, Mike Giblin, was a friend I met at SXSW a while back and actually became tour manager for the Magic Christian band. So it’s all through friends and connections. The common denominator is the music, and the types of music that we all enjoy. The keyboard player, Josh Kantor, has been really busy because he’s the organist in Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. We recorded at Dave Manahan’s studio, who’s in the Replacements. Scott McCaughey from REM, the Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5 produced it, and that’s how Peter Buck got involved with the record. We did it over the course of ten days out in Massachusetts, and it was a really enjoyable experience. The camaraderie among musicians when you’re friends and exchanging ideas is a really cool thing.”

So that’s who we get to see in Hamtramck (plus a guest from Nikki Corvette and a re-emerging Gore). Front man Munoz is one swanky old bugger; a snarly old punk with a sound set of pipes and gift for bass. The guys from the Freshtones and the Plimsouls pull out the casually outrageous riffs, mini-solos and twangs. Meanwhile, it’s a little surreal to see Burke playing drums in front of the New Dodge Window, Checkers lit up behind him and the occasional cold pedestrian passing by oblivious. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from this band. I thought they could be dull as shite, boosted by a big name. They weren’t – these old friends have pulled a great record and a cool set together. Burke told us what he’s doing next:

“ I’m working on a secret project right now. Recordings are going to come out some time next year. That’s been in the works for a while. We have a new Blondie record coming out probably in March. Next year, we’re having a big anniversary tour for Blondie, which is hard to believe. That’s in the pipeline. I have a group called International Swingers with Glenn Matlock from the Pistols. The essence of what I do is really about the exchange, the whole process and the friendship that’s involved. I don’t eve want to call these things projects. It’s just a group of friends getting together. There’s always something on the horizon. People will enjoy the Split Squad. It’s great little band and it’ll be a good night.”