If you live long enough, you’ll hear a lot of bands that sound like bands from the past. The Compulsions are a good example of this experience. Anyone as addicted to the New York Dolls as I was in the seventies will inevitably draw comparisons between The Compulsions and The Dolls.
Okay, sounding like a bigger, better known band isn’t the crime of the century. However The Compulsions try too hard to snatch the very soul of The Dolls down to their snarling attitudes. When it works, The Compulsions comes off as a tribute band sans the lovely Dolls fashions, easily fitting their shoe prints into those left by their progenitor. On songs like “Shake Hands with the Devil” and “My Favorite Wine,” you can also hear the influence of The Dictators weaving in and out. Unfortunately, on the rest of Laughter From Below, The Compulsions lapse into genuflects to Johnny Thunders, Killer Kane, and song swiller cum actor David Johansen.
Laughter From Below was produced back in 2004 by Hugh Pool and Ken Rich. Pool and Rich bring out all they can from the group, which includes vocalist/guitarist Rob Carlyle, guitarist John Andrews, Jon Weber on drums, and Brett Bass on, well, bass. There are a lot more influences here, including Guns and Roses, and a little bit of the Rolling Stones dirty rock n' roll, and the boys do their best to honor these mentors. But frankly, with bands like Towers of London out there kicking the hell out of iconic rock and punk, The Compulsions will have a hard time establishing an identity for themselves.
Even though Laughter From Below doesn’t represent The Compulsions well, you might gain some comfort from the musical direction of the band. In a music world replete with sugary, cutesy boy and girl bands like Hellogoodbye and the Pussycat Dolls, The Compulsions serve up loud, crunchy guitars rock fans can chew on while downing a twelve pack of Milwaukee’s Finest. That should be enough motivation for devotees to tear up their neighborhood record stores looking for Laughter From Below.
If you’re not familiar with the New York Dolls, you might want to pick up their first self-titled record and maybe some of the work from Thunders and the Heartbreakers. Not only will you gain a perspective on where The Compulsions are coming from, but you’ll cream your pants when you hear those groups doing rock n’ roll right.