Sunday, August 11, 2013

Flamin' Groovies - Flamingo

Flamingo (1970) ***

Are you ready for some good rockin' tonite?  The opener, which yes indeed is entitled "Gonna Rock Tonite," tells you all you really need to know:  this is Regressive Rock with a capital R, a self-consciously gonzo-primitive throwback to the primordial psychobilly stew years before the Cramps were moaning about strychnine and human flies in CBGBs.  Yet once again the Groovies haven't tightened their songwriting chops as tightly as they've screwed in their grooves.  "Gonna Rock Tonite," boogies as mindlessly as its title, which certainly indicates a calculated self-consciousness to such regressive boogie - true boogie morons would never rock this stoopidly.  Bad news first:  there's a cliffdrop in terms of variety, as the Groovies concentrate on one facet of their sound - good rockin'! - with a couple of sidesteps into excessively sneering country send-ups (the faux-Jagger vocal in "Childhood's End" is literally painful in its smirking insincerity, managing to make the real Jagger of "Faraway Eyes," sound like George Jones in comparison.  And that was one of the most condescending of Stones country send-ups!) and a flaky, recorded-in-a-toilet-stall excursion into pop-psych, "She's Falling Apart".  OK, good news next:  the Groovies have finally discovered their trademark guitar tones - their raison d'être, if you pardon my French.  No, they don't rock as hard as the MC5 (catching a concert of them inspired this change in musical direction), but they do so a lot more colorfully.  Cyril Jordan's guitar snaps and bends with rubber-band crunch - yeah, I know, that's a poor and contradictory description, so I'm just going to fall back on the rock journo cliche re: dancing about architecture, because I'm lazy and not very good at describing things.  What do you take me for, a musicologist?  If I knew more about music I'd probably bore you to death, anyway.

Lyrics are more my speed - I was an English major, y'know. (ROCK CRITIC CLICHE ALERT!  90% of the rock critics that have huffed cough syrup in the shadow of Lester Bangs have been English majors!  Except for Bangs himself, I think.  I'm pretty sure that guy barely had a high school education.  Hell, just look at his stuff, he could barely write even when he was on drugs.)    It's the lyrics, along with the zippy guitar tones and hi-NRG, that make this record amount to more than just Sha Na Na with worse haircuts.  (No wonder these guys never became famous.  Just look at that cover!)  "Gonna Rock Tonite," aside (and it was meant to be mindless), the words to the tunes are fairly clever (all originals except for "Keep a Knockin' " which is actually kind of pointless).  Sure, Jerry Lee Lewis would have lusted after his "Second Cousin," but he'd never have been so explicit.  And "Comin' After Me," is a wryly humorous send-up worthy of Chuck Berry's pen, satirizing druggy paranoia with uproarious lyrics about getting pneumonia from holes in your shoe and all your friends telling you to give up the glue.  And then....uh, yeah, well like I said, the songwriting's still too damn thin.  And the rent's too damn high.  So what?  You hear me complainin'?  The sound's good, and if you want a whole album of mindless post-Yardbirds boogie raveups (with a couple of crappy country songs half-baked in for token variety), then you could do worse.  If you expect or ask for anything more, such as depth, originality, artistic ambition, etc., you're barking up the wrong pool hall.  The reissue adds some bonus tracks, but it's all the same - just six more slices of greaseball psychobilly.  Man, I think this album just gave me heartburn.

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