Teen beat

Jun 13, 2007 at 12:00 am

The Stooges extracted profundity from the chaos of childlike destruction. Nirvana took the profundity of personal destruction and distilled it into childlike grace. The Ramones used three chords to decimate anything that stunk too much like grown-ups and intellectualism.

In its finest, most savage moments, rock 'n' roll is an abandonment of those things that promote a polite, equitable society. It's childish in its self-possession. In the language of rock, needs are expressed as demands, not requests: "Gimme Danger," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" and gimme a shotgun, I never want to grow up.

For two-thirds of Detroit rock trio the Muldoons — growing up won't be an issue for some time. And they are savage. Believe it.

Influenced by the three groups listed above, the band (Shane Muldoon, 10, on vocals and guitar; brother Hunter Muldoon, 13, on guitar and vocals, and dad Brian Muldoon, 48, on drums) has risen to the rock 'n' roll cause — and not a minute too soon. The sea of mediocrity that has become the music biz is suffocating itself like a flock of tattoo and eyeliner-bedazzled turkeys in the rain. And there's no better authority on that grim reality than a disgusted teenager.

"Everyone [at school] says, 'Oh! I love Fall Out Boy!'" says Hunter, as he, Shane and Dad Muldoon linger in the tiny rehearsal room of the family's artfully restored, turn-of-the-century Corktown home. "I want to punch them. I hate that band! There's a little thing called the Stooges — look it up."

The passion looks bratty in print, but the Muldoon brothers are actually good-humored, polite, well-adjusted kids. When they "looked up" the Stooges, they didn't have to look far. Dad's record collection proved ample inspiration for the duo's self-penned, imaginative diatribes about everything from fending off marauding zombies to spray painting their classroom "Red and Black." These are certainly the things that occupy a young man's mind. But the attack — a distorted cacophony of Shane's primal yowl, twin overdriven guitars and Brian's ferocious drumming — is surprisingly potent.

Equally impressive is the Muldoons' career trajectory. Shane Muldoon is probably the only fourth-grader on the planet Earth who can say he launched his rock career at 8 years-old by opening for the White Stripes at Detroit's Masonic Temple.

"It was exciting," he says, reflecting on the band's auspicious 2005 debut. "I was a little nervous — but once you get up there and the lights come on, you can only see two people anyway."

Along with opening shows for Detroiters like the Hentchmen and the Go (both particular faves), the band also had two support slots on the Raconteurs' 2006 tour and put Raconteur Brendan Benson in the driver's seat for the recording of their recently released debut album. The self-titled, 12-song, vinyl-only platter is out now as a co-release by Jack White's Third Man label and Dirtbombs drummer Ben Blackwell's Cass Records. White Stripes superfans will make the connection on all of these names, including Brian Muldoon's. It was he who introduced the young Jack White (then John Gillis) to the upholstery trade.

"There were seven Muldoons and 10 Gillises living over on Ferdinand Street," says Brian, who was inspired to pursue upholstery by the work an older guy in their Detroit neighborhood, W. E. Klomp. "He did work for my parents — I really loved it," he says. Along with performing high-end upholstery together, Muldoon and White jammed. When they put out a 7-inch EP on the Sympathy For the Record Industry label in 2000 as the Upholsterers, the pair included a reproduction of W.E. Klomp's weathered business card in the record's sleeve.

"That's where Jack got the 'Third Man' thing," Brian says. "He was the third guy in our neighborhood to become an upholsterer."

Like White, Hunter Muldoon began his musical career as a drummer. But once he beheld the majesty of Johnny Ramone's slash-and-burn guitar, he was a goner. "Once Hunter started playing guitar, it became clear that we could do something," Brian says. "It was like 'Yeah! Let's play!"

And play they do. The Muldoons rehearse every day. And, like every rock band worth its salt, there's conflict.

"We don't fight over music," Hunter says, "but, when we rehearse, it's competitive. We'll say 'Hey! You messed up!' and throw it in each other's faces." Brian is the drummer — and the dad. "It's brother stuff," he says. "For some reason the 13-year-old thinks the 10-year-old is supposed to listen to him. And the 10-year-old makes it clear that that's not going to happen. I'm just the mediator."

A peek into the boys' bedroom reveals the requisite trappings of rock: dirty Converse sneakers on the floor, AC/DC and Misfits posters on the wall and, perched on the chest of drawers between two unmade twin beds, a framed photo of the Muldoons with Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and iconic frontman Iggy Pop. Iggy sports a South Beach tan and a big, goofy grin of overly white crowns. It does not rock.

"He looks like the happy grandfather!" Hunter says. "It was like, 'Are you serious? He's smiling like that?' It was ridiculous!" Shane makes a comment about the "really weird platform flip-flops" Pop was wearing at the time of the photo — therapeutic footwear for a busted flipper. But for all the gentle jibes, it's clear that the brothers Muldoon are enamored of their hero. And nowhere is that emphasized more profoundly than on the new album.

Like the Stooges, the Muldoons comfortably employ guttural yelps and grunts in spots where conventional lyrics won't satisfy. On the band's take of the Stooges "Real Cool Time," Shane supplants Asheton-style guitar meanderings with a gargle solo. "I was gargling water," he explains. "I was sick for, like, half of the songs." The effect is reminiscent of the jug solos prevalent in 13th Floor Elevators recordings — weird, adolescent and oddly alluring.

The same can be said of the Muldoons' originals. As the trio sits at the chrome dinette in the family's kitchen (mother Patricia Muldoon's presence represented by a hand-scrawled Mother's Day card on the fridge), the time has come for a practical demonstration of the Muldoons track "Chubby Bunny," an ode to choking on marshmallows after you've crammed too many in your maw.

"You can't do it with minis," Shane declares. But that's not going to stop him from trying. "Some kid died from playing this game," observes Hunter, as Shane crams loads of tiny marshmallows into his mouth. For the uninitiated, the object of "Chubby Bunny" is to try to repeat the phrase until the words can no longer compete with the mass of marshmallows in your mouth. Shane has now given up saying "chubby bunny" and is just seeing how many he can wedge in there. Suddenly, he fakes gagging — rolling his eyes back and slamming his head into the fluffy marshmallow bag. He's laughing now — a gob of marshmallow goo foaming from his lips. Hunter has a mouthful too.

This would be "a great article" if one of them croaked right now, Brian says.

"Thanks, Dad," Hunter mumbles through the 'mallows.

Fall Out Boy is dumb. There's a little thing called the Muldoons — look it up.


Saturday, June 16, at the Blind Pig, 208 S. First St., Ann Arbor; 734-996-8555 with Scott Morgan's Powertrane and the Sights; 9:30 p.m.; 18 and over.

Wendy Case is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]