Never before has The Mooney Suzuki’s The Maximum Black EP been released in stores. This 1999 self-released album, only sold before at the band’s shows and on the their website, has finally seen the light of retail day courtesy of V2 Records.
The original six tracks are accompanied by five never-before released tracks from TMS’s original recording sessions. All of the tracks have been remastered so that much of what made them garage rock songs are lost. Garage rock implies counterculture, do-it-yourself music making. The scratches and hisses are nowhere to be found.
The Doors-esque “My Dead Persephone” sounds like it was recorded yesterday with a lack of amateurism. Although I think a lot of TMS fans might seem grateful to have a more pristine sounding copy of this former out-of-print work, some will see this as a fallen angel. There has always been demand for live recordings of concerts. Some fans taped concerts using crappy analog equipment while modernists used more sophisticated digital tools. Now, the bands themselves seem very enthusiastic about recording their own concerts and selling first-hand quality bootlegs.
Without a doubt, these authorized bootlegs are tremendously superior to their archaic counterparts, but does listening to them really transport you back to that concert? To me, not as much as trying to cipher the music from all of the crowd noise. Concert songs sound nothing like the album songs, and no musical genre gives you a better feel for the concert experience than garage rock. The insecurity and the nervousness can all be heard in this genre. In “Turn My Blue Sky Black,” you can definitely hear the low-production values. Its heavy guitar chords and surprisingly less pronounced percussion give way to the song’s latter ode to Jimi Hendrix.
I want to describe a few of the quartet’s songs like “Love Is A Gentle Whip” and “Right On By” as California rock, but no one from the band seems to be from the great western state. Listening to “Right On By” gives you an instant visual dream of roller skating down the California boardwalk on a bright 1960’s sunny day. Another California lovin’ song is the gem “This Lonely Land” that can simply be described as easy rock — the kind where gentle head and body moving comes as naturally as breathing.
The EP can be best described as brisk, coming and going as fast as the urge to pee strikes after drinking a gallon of soda in thirty seconds flat. While it may not be the most memorable album ever, The Maximum Black EP does give you an appreciation for true independent rock.