There’s a lot to be said for our modern, a-go-go world. While it’s true that we don’t have the flying cars or the vacation homes on the moon we’d been promised when I was a kid, this computer I’m typing on is pretty cool, for one thing. And, y’know, heart transplants and velcro and Altoids and such, they’re all very good. Especially the Altoids.
Every now and then, though, it’s good to get back to your more primitive roots. Throw that cell phone in the lake, pull that GPS tracking unit outta your sphincter and live a little. De-civilize yourself a bit. Stop and smell the tar pits. Roll around in the mud. Maybe put a bone in your hair. (C’mon, you know you wanna do it.) Remember, humans aren’t just birth-school-work-death automaton robot machines. No. We are, in fact mammals, and among other things, mammals are the animals that play.
That’s right. Model yourself on the playful otter, the sportive dog, the randy rabbit, the majestic chimpanzee. Have some fun for a change! Be goofy! Because you don’t see too many otters dropping dead from heart attacks or perforated ulcers or other stress-related diseases, do you?
Now, before you cast off that business suit and go swinging off into the trees, you’re gonna want a soundtrack for your de-evolution. Music soothes the savage beast, yes, but it can also inflame the senses, awaken the soul and generally facilitate the temporary triumph of the id. This is good.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when rock & roll was fun. No, really. You kids will just have to take my word for it. Set up, plug in, turn the amps to 11 (because it is, in fact, one louder), and bash it out. One-two-three-four! Lather, rinse, repeat.
These days, though, there’s an awful lot of humorlessness in music. Everybody’s so painfully earnest. I believe the British call it being po-faced. At any rate, that sort of thing is not what we’re looking for here. But fear not, my fellow monkeys, for the folks at Bomp Records have stepped up to the plate on your behalf. If you like it raw and primitive (and if you don’t, you should stop reading here), they’ve got a couple of new discs that’ll have you hopping around and doing the idiot dance in no time.
Straddling the divide between garage rock and punk like a snot-nosed colossus is The Konks’ self-titled album. As they proudly proclaim in “29 Fingers”, they play “cheap guitars and only two lousy drums”, yet the noise they make with those meager instruments is a righteously primordial one.
Had there been garages and electric guitars back in Neolithic times, The Konks would surely have been top of the pops. (Work with me, OK?) This band aspires to lo-fi status, and achieves it nicely. Bob’s guitar solos (all Konks go by their first names) on opening track “Outta My Mind” (not to be confused with “Out Of My Mind” – that’s track 7) and the aforementioned “29 Fingers” sound as if someone were very slowly dragging the tonearm across a Sonics album. (Kids, go ask your parents what that would have sounded like.)
Drummer/vocalist Kurt sounds more and more like the late lamented Bon Scott over the course of the disc – especially on the greasy cover of Aerosmith’s “Let The Music Do The Talking” that wraps things up – with some wild primate grunts and screams thrown in for good measure. And when Jon’s bass surfaces in the mix, it’s not just plodding along. He’s working that plank.
Thematically, The Konks are all about thwarted lust. Then again, that sorta goes without saying, as thwarted lust is one of the hallmarks of the genre. That and boasting about what a badass you are, which gets covered in “29 Fingers”:
“We got 29 fingers and man we’re havin’ fun
29 fingers and boy, we’re havin’ fun
We play cheap guitars and just two lousy drums
Cheap guitars and just two lousy drums
If you see us comin’, you better get out of the way
‘Cause we’re The Konks, yeah yeah yeah yeah
Yeah, we’re The Konks and we don’t care”
So badass are these Konks that they can abandon a rhyme scheme in the middle of a verse! Also, they seem to be short a finger, unless my math is off. Another sign of bad-assedness, to be sure. At any rate, it’s a quality listen.
The Konks may be working without much in the way of equipment, but compared to our next artist they’ve got enough gear for the New York Philharmonic. BBQ, aka Mark Sultan of Les Sexareenos, is here to say that less really is more. One man, one guitar, a kick drum, a snare set up with a pedal, and a tambourine. (I’m assuming 10 fingers, but we all know what happens when one assumes.) No multi-tracking, everything recorded live and lo-fi. Doesn’t get much more minimal than that, does it?
You might imagine that, given the rather spare nature of the instrumentation, the music would end up all sounding the same. You’d be wrong.
Sultan wrings a wide variety of sound out of his modest collection of tools. If you overlook the fact that the beat doesn’t change much over the course of the record (and c’mon, seriously, how many beats can you get out of two drums by kicking them?), it would be difficult to tell that it wasn’t a “full” band. Even then, actually; there are a few drummers around with full kits who don’t do much more than BBQ does.
Tie Your Noose is 12 songs of straight-ahead, bare bones rock & roll. According to the news release, it’s all done in the style popular between 1959-63. Well, OK. I wasn’t breathing air myself before late 1960, but it doesn’t sound like an unreasonable claim. Not quite so raucous as The Konks, but there are some rowdy moments. “Outta My Mind” (different song, yet again – I’m sensing a theme here), “Year Old Wine”, “Tie Your Noose”, “Hang It Up”, and “Burn This Town” all chug along at a pretty good clip, edging close to the garage at times, while “Record Machine” has its own Buddy Holly-esque feel to it. The slower numbers (“Waddlin’ Around”, “Don’t Hold Out On Me”, a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Out Of Time”) very definitely have that late-Fifties teenage record party feel to them.
Are either of these discs gonna change the way you listen to music? Nope. Well, probably not, anyway. But y’know, I don’t think either band was after that sort of reaction. They’re not trying to make enormous artistic statements, they’re about having fun. Which, if you’ll recall, was our goal.
So when you’re ready to strap on that loincloth and make like an ape man/woman, keep these discs in mind. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go stick a bone in my hair.Powered by Sidelines