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CD Review: The Hypstrz – Live At The Longhorn

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Man, I just can’t seem to get my head wrapped around reviewing Live At The Longhorn. I’ve started to do it, but it just never seems to work. The Hypstrz used to be called King Kustom & The Cruisers (The All Leather Stomp Band) and they played Fifites rock. They decided to change their name and move on to the next decade becoming one of the first Sixties revivalists. The Twin Cities band was inspired by The Ramones and local punk band Suicide Commandos to speed up the cover songs they were playing. This resulted in an explosive sound detonation and with few breaks between songs the Hypstrz live set was a wave after wave sonic assault. That’s one way I’ve thought of beginning a review.

I’ve also thought about telling of my own historical basis of appreciation. I found an old Bomp Records compilation on vinyl and it featured “In The Midnight Hour” by The Hypstrz. I didn’t like the misspelled name (what is it with Twin Cities artist and misspellings), but I loved their raw cover version of a song that I really was tired of hearing. I was thinking about having the band I was in at the time cover some Northern Soul classics and hearing The Hypstrz do a soul classic was just what I needed to give me that sort of confidence.

I could lead with a bit about The Hypstrz artistic bravery to play covers instead of originals. The prevailing musical currents in 1979 were disco and corporate dinosaur rock. Punk rock was becoming post-punk, hardcore, or being packaged as New Wave. The big boom in Sixties revival bands wouldn’t happen for another 3 to 4 years. Then there’s the simple matter that The Hypstrz preferred playing amped up cover songs to their own material which was sure to alienate the less discerning rock writers and fans. They were unlikely to win over fans wearing screen printed Journey, Styx, or Foreigner concert shirts unless they were covering those artists.

The Hypstrz covered a wide ranging group of artists; 13th Floor Elevators, Standells, The Litter, Chocolate Watchband, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, The Barbarians, Shadows Of Knight, Love, The Music Machine, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, The Syndicate Of Sound, ? And The Mysterians, The Sonics, Flamin’ Groovies, Barry & The Remains, The Troggs, The Pretty Things, Sam and Dave, The Small Faces, The Yardbirds, The Trashmen, and even The Shangri-La’s are all tackled on this disc which reissues the rare Bomp album Hypsterization in its entirety along with the band’s first 45 release along with a bunch of unreleased tracks. There are 4 original numbers included and they fit seamlessly in with the cover material proving that The Hypstrz could write their own high quality stuff.

But all of this doesn’t do justice to how awesome the band sounded. Turn the disc down to a whisper and it still sounds loud. All is given a Hypstrz sheen where, if you didn’t know the orignal songs, you would never realize they were covers. Even more phenomenal to me is that they’re still out there doing it. Tracks 35-37 were all just recorded last year at a live show. They still rock out with crazed, amphetamine glee. And I still can’t think of a way to make my words capture their glory upon the written page. So this will have to do with the hope that you too will go out and get The Hypstrz Live At The Longhorn and join me in being struck dumb in the glory of rock and roll. Guitar, bass, drums, and somebody willing to scream are all you need for a good time.

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