American Disaster (German import, 12-inch vinyl)
Detroit’s pioneering glitter-pop holdouts have clearly influenced everyone from Sponge to Dope to Marilyn Manson to dozens of makeup-wearing kiddie-punk-pop Lookout! bands the world over. It’s the typical sob story that’s hell-hounded rock ’n’ roll’s trailblazers from day one — that it is inevitably the skinnier, richer, better-connected imitators with the famous fathers and higher cheekbones who get the glory and the cash while the architects get, at best, laid. Jaded? Drunk? Strung-out? Or do they keep their sense of humor and soldier on and on and on and on, left of the dial?
Hence “America’s only rock ’n’ roll band,” as the Brats are lovingly referred to by the group’s hardcore cult following. They’re a band widely appreciated in other parts of the world (Sweden, Japan, France), while often overlooked and imitated here in their homeland. Preposterously, it took some discriminating German boutique label to release this limited-edition Trash Brats first full-length vinyl, import-only, collector’s-edition LP. American Disaster features both crowd-pleasing, sing-along classics (“Bubble Gum Girl,” “Don’t Wanna Dance”) as well as more aggressive, punch-drunk, hitsville punk rockers (“Must Be The Cocaine,” “Rocket To Heaven”). A must for Motor City rock ’n’ roll archivists and anybody attempting to keep the summer alive. Visit www.trashbrats.com.
From the Delta to the Bowery
Story of My Life
Hats off to former Road Vulture, Kevin K., the hardest working man in show business, for relentlessly touring the world on a shoestring and somehow recording and releasing album after album of Johnny Thunders-inspired gutter-raunch year after year. K’s records frequently boast guest appearances from virtually every street-cred heavyweight in the punk ’n’ roll book of who’s who. I don’t know how he does it.
Still, as a longtime admirer of his melodic pipes and accomplished guitar playing, I remain frustrated by Kevin’s lyrics, which invariably seem to be cut-and-paste homages to his heroes, the vanguard of dead NYC junkie-punks. On every K. record, there are dozens upon dozens of boring references to “Joey and Dee Dee” and “Me and Johnny at Max’s Kansas City,” etc. As Kevin’s forbear, Nikki Sudden, recently said to me, “Is it flattering or is it tedious?”
There’s an elaborate worldwide network of smack-glamorizing Thunders clones, as well as earnest and well-meaning devotees such as Kevin K. who continue to ransack that pale ghost’s ragged bag of worn-out tricks so often that it’s hard for me to appreciate the original. When Kevin K. leaves the Dolls catalog alone, and goes five minutes without quoting Sir Thunders, he is most assuredly capable of penning some really terrific, fresh-sounding guitar pop, as evidenced on the Road Vultures CD, Ride. All too often, K. has a self-destructive, nasty habit of relying so heavily on recycled Thundersisms that it goes way beyond the valley of self-parody. Just be yourself, baby, and try layin’ off all those “Lonely Planet Ham Sandwiches” for a while. Visit www.13th-street.com.
Hit List magazine
Along with the sometimes nauseatingly indie/alt -oriented Big Takeover magazine, and Jeff Dahl’s ultra-underground fanzine Sonic Iguana, Hit List is America’s premier real rock ’n’ roll publication. It’s the only nationally distributed rawk mag that focuses its coverage on the genuine article, “the real rock ’n’ roll movement,” and doesn’t merely regurgitate record-company bios. I don’t believe for a moment that these corporate weasels and NYU grads on major-label payrolls have the faintest idea how to scout out the authentic voices most likely to endure; those all too programmed to seek out the wacky gimmicks, the matching outfits and incompetent, large-breasted girl drummers. When I say real rock ’n’ roll, I mean — to borrow the Big Takeover’s subtitle — “music with heart.”
Said magazines are where you’re likely to read about such stalwart and impassioned undiscovered comets as the Lazy Cowgirls, Teenage Frames, the Diamond Dogs, Beat Angels, Chamber Strings, the Flaming Stars, Dave Kusworth & the Tenderhooks, American Heartbreak, Trash Brats and the Dictators — the last few starry-eyed, hearts-afire champions still keeping guard at the gates of dreams worth living for!
The current Hit List, on better newsstands now, stars Nikki Sudden, Circus of Power and the International Noise Conspiracy. Until J. Kordosh is secured as editor for the long-rumored Creem resurrection, this is probably the best mag you’re gonna find in this era about songwriter misfortune, guitar hero heartbreak, beer and 45’s …and they always throw in some lame emo cheese for the kids! Find more at Hit List Magazine, Box 8345, Berkeley, CA 94707.
Beyond The Valley of the Murderdolls
OK. The Murderdolls are uninspired, laughably bad, thrice-warmed-over, 10th-generation drivel, duded-up in Twiggy Ramirez Halloween costumery; unimaginative, opportunistic, bloodsucking parasites who somehow managed to snag a big recording budget to make this insipid and formulaic rehash record, and blah, blah, blah, blahblahzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Visit www.murderdolls.com.
Steven Gullett is the apparently tortured blackheart behind Dayton’s best punk band, the Mystery Addicts. This solo album (mainly a collection of demos) is hot on the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed Mystery Addicts full-length, Unluck and Shame. Steven is among the most promisingly literate songwriters amid the wave of subterranean rock ’n’ rollers, penning vitriolic lyrics about failure, despair, and self-loathing.
Gullett is masterful at detailing his own misery. The problem is — much like that major-label band from a few years ago, D-Generation — this disc is kind of a bummer. Personally, I’m looking for some consolation, escapism, hope, joy, redemption, some faint kind of sunny melody or silver lining with my rock ’n’ roll, y’know? Even false hope at this point — mirages, pale glimmers.
With all its nagging portents of gloom and futility, Cheap Reflections probably hits me too close to the bone. In “The Payoff,” Gullett laments the harrowing disappointment of insanely pursuing an ever-receding, unreasonable dream: “If this is it, it’s all you get/have you made your millions yet?/have you made your peace with that?”
As Gullett continues to outgrow his once ubiquitous influences to find his own voice as a writer — choosing his own words, recalling his own experiences, conveying his own truth — he naggingly insists on including a handful of redundant covers.
Anyway, catch Gullet’s band, the Mystery Addicts, next time they’re in town as they co-star a really strikingly original rock ’n’ roll personality in Jamy Holliday, a man who complements Steven’s dark prose by exuding a distinctive star quality and whiskey-drenched charisma. Surf to www.stevengullett.com.
These are arguably the foxiest female musicians I’ve seen convened together since Mini Skirt Mob broke up, but am I the only one who’s bored with the whole manufactured model/”American Idol”/beauty contest/Gap commercial vibe that currently permeates pop? I mean, besides maybe some disgruntled rival bands, no one cares, at all, if Stun Gun can create any relevant music of lasting value. It’s a nonissue. It’s just not important whether these girls have any statement to make. No matter how vapid Venus Envy is, one look at Stun Gun’s photo and you’ll sense that these chicks are already an ultramarketable commodity like MTV ginch-goddess Pink. Somebody could write Stun Gun’s obligatory painful childhood ballads and neofeminist anthems for the group if necessary. (Pink recently dusted off has-been songwriter Linda Perry to give herself a new identity.)
In any case, with the recent addition of drummer and former Betty Blowtorch Judy Cocuzza, the Stun Gun girls — with their exceptional genes, eager desire to “make it” and nonthreatening, well-produced and likable modern pop songs — are poised for the big time.
Part indie rock, part fluff-metal, and with exactly the right amount of top-40 techno/hip hop flava — picture a cross between Garbage and American Thighs-era Veruca Salt — Stun Gun is a winning product and ready for “Total Request Live.” Young teenagers will love Venus Envy’s naughty lyrics and sultry grooves, and if the Gun girls can get the right industry weasels behind them, forget it. And, oh, yeah, don’t hate ’em cause they’re beautiful. Instead, surf to www.stungunrocks.com.E-mail Dimitri Monroe at [email protected]