Tag Archives: Detroit Cobras

Taking It To Detroit, Part 2

Day Two of the manic weekend found me heading downtown to the Alley Deck in the Majestic Theatre complex to catch a set by one of my rock’n’roll heroes, Greg Cartwright. Having missed the Oblivians concert the night before (cloning is not one of my abilities) I knew I could not leave town without catching his solo set…even with a seven hour drive and two border crossings staring me down. I crawled in the door after midnight, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

An American Original

An American Original

Greg apologized for being of raw throat and said he’d sing as long as he was able, then smiled and added “…but I will further fuck my voice up by smoking this cigarette“. The warning was all for naught;  he wound up playing two sets to an appreciative crowd of fans and fellow musicians… and I lost count at thirty-six songs.

Besdies a catalogue rich in great material, Cartwright had the crowd in stitches between songs – his story about Jack Oblivian selling his guitar to Jack White was classic. But he also paid genuine props to his peers, pointing out a friend who introduced him to an early Detroit single that’s now a live favorite, or how he learned how to better sing his own song “Bad Man” after hearing Rachael Nagy’s interpretation with The Detroit Cobras.

While there were some planned songs in his set, he also frequently took requests with the caveat that he might not remember all the words. Fumbles were rare, but when he hit the wall during “Two Thieves” he simply stopped and said “when I am beaten by my own brain, I will stand down“.  Then, laughing, he fired up the next tune. I’m not certain who had more fun, Greg or the audience. He’s an approachable guy who is the antithesis of the rock star persona, which is probably why so many other musicians are almost reverential when his name comes up in conversation.  

The set list touched upon all his band associations like The Oblivians and The Compulsive Gamblers but mostly drew upon The Reigning Sound, with at least one new track (“Pocket Full of Broken Things“) from their upcoming album Love & Curses. Hard to pick highlights, but “Reptile Style”, “We Repel Each Other”, “Time Bomb High School” and “Stop And Think It Over” each lit the place up like a rocket.

The Reigning Sound is now headed for Europe, but will return Stateside by mid-August to prepare for a tour to support the new album. Do not miss the opportunity to see not only one of America’s finest bands, but a true icon of independent music. I’ll hopefully interview Greg later this summer as part of a feature article about the band.

 Stop And Think It Over

Bad Man

We Repel Each Other

detroit 2

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Great Songs

What can I say?

All of these put a huge smile on my face and a spring in my step. Kick off your weekend with some great tunes…

Just don't dance like this...

Just don't dance like this...

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Under The Radar: The Downbeat 5

No smoke, no mirrors. Just IN YOUR FACE rock'n'roll

No smoke, no mirrors. Just IN YOUR FACE rock'n'roll!

The Downbeat 5 was formed a decade ago by legendary Boston rocker J.J.Rassler, whom many of you might know from the band DMZ (along with future Lyres member Jeff Connolly). Rassler’s then-wife Jen shared a love for all things Dolls, Stooges and garage, tempered with a melodic pulse yet a fiery pace, and her prowling, howling vocals were the perfect complement to the piston engine that drove most of the songs in their repetoire.

Smoke and Mirrors was recorded live in a studio full of friends and guests, and the band proved it doesn’t know any speed but full. Plowing through some well chosen covers from The Kinks, The Yardbirds and The Velvet Underground along with a few of their own songs, The Downbeat 5 sound like The Detroit Cobras on a Red Bull buzz. I would have loved to have had my ears pinned back that night at Q Division studios!

Jen – now called Jen D’Angora – has the same gutteral yelp as The MuffsKim Shattuck, while Rassler plays the Johnny Ramone role by thrashing out infectious power chords and stinging guitar fills. But the band wouldn’t be half as much fun without the piledriving rhythm section of bassist Mike Yocco and drummer extraordinaire Eric Almquist (a monster player). Plus you have to love a band that thanks Ed Koch, Ratso Rizzo and the Olsen Twins in their liner notes…

The band’s 2005 release Victory Motel is sadly out of print (ping me if you have it!) but Ism is still available, and with a cut on the latest Little Steven Coolest Songs collection getting attention, hopefully there will be more albums to come. You’d be hard pressed to top this one for pure adreneline, though. 

The Downbeat 5 website.

The Downbeat 5 MySpace page..

The Downbeat 5 rip the stuffing out of “Shake“.

A rousing  “Dum Dum Ditty“, now rocking the Underground Garage.

downbeat 5 live

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Sometimes (Not) A Great Notion

GARAGE ROCK AND ITS ROOTS

Eric James Abbey, © 2006 McFarland Press

 

 

Reading a bad book is painful enough. Getting excited that a book covering a favorite topic exists, andthen  realizing it sucks? Priceless

 

Where do I start with this mess? The ham-fisted description of what “underground” means and how bands who don’t try to sell out upon conception are cool? That his favorite band is really neat because they don’t condone fighting or stealing girlfriends from other musicians? That The Hentchmen, The Gories and The Hard Lessons are mentioned but The Detroit Cobras and Mick Collins are barely discussed and The Paybacks don’t even rate a mention? That the major motivation for forming a garage band was rejecting capitalist thought patterns (!), not having fun and getting laid?

 

Waffling throughout, first The Who isn’t an integral part of the British Invasion. Two pages later, they’re the apex of the movement. Another two pages and they’re out again. Some obvious points (garage bands draw influence from the past as opposed to the present) are repeated breathlessly, while true critical observations are avoided altogether. Unsubstantiated claims, lyrical misinterpretations, geographic myopia…it’s all here, folks, even embarrassingly amateur editing and proofreading. My eyebrow arched when I read the name “Phil Specter” early on, but when I got to “Jimmy Hendrix”, I had to stop reading.

 

Maybe Abbey likes Detroit, likes the music and appreciates the bands. Great – so do countless other people. The irony here is that he got a book deal and delivered a faceless, boring piece of crap; in his own way, he is that corporate, soulless product that better writers – er, garage bands – are rejecting with their art.

 

Here are just a few of the points that our author is unable to comprehend:

 

(1)     All bands are underground until they become popular

(2)     A “scene” happens when a multitude of good music occurs simultaneously

(3)     The Small Faces were anything but an obscure act

(4)     If you are going to talk about the Pacific Northwest garage scene and not mention The Sonics or The Wailers, stop writing

(5)     People weren’t sitting on their collective asses in Detroit waiting for the garage scene to save them. Detroit rocks 24/7

 

I should have been tipped off, though. Any book that spends an eleven page introduction (eleven!) explaining what the following chapters are about is suspect from the start. If you have to explain what I’m about to read, you’re either an idiot or you’re discussing a David Lynch film. (Note: this book does not discuss David Lynch).

 

The one redeeming factor is the author’s man-woody for The Sights, a criminally unknown band whose influence is three parts Small Faces and two parts urban soul. If somehow this book – or my reaction to it – makes one  person pick up a Sights album, then the terrorists did not  win.

 

Most editors are failed writers – but so are most writers.  ~T.S. Eliot

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