Sunday, August 18, 2013

Flamin' Groovies - Teenage Head

Teenage Head (1971) ***1/2

Every single review of the Groovies' third long-player mentions the Stones' Sticky Fingers and the urban legend (?) of how Mick & Keith claimed that the Groovies actually did the Stones better, so I'm getting that out of the way first.  Not that I blame critics:  this indeed sounds like exactly like the American twin, or at least spittin' cousin, to the Stones' classic LP.  And while it is inferior (what were the Glimmer Twins smokin'?), being far too short at barely half an hour and nine songs long, and with less consistently knockout material (the title track is really the only true classic for the ages), it's not that far off from what the Stones were doing in the late '60s/early '70s - which means it's near-classic, swamp'n'gin-soaked, skeevy sleaze-blues & rock of the greasiest and grittiest order.  Easily the finest of the original Groovies' three early albums, with Cyril Jordan grease-frying his guitar in a vat of insanely overabused slide licks, but it's his songwriting partner Roy Loney who steals the show.  It was easy to not pay much attention to the lead singer on the first album, and pay mild attention to him when he did his funny exaggerations on the second LP, but now Loney's grown up into a real presence that you can't ignore.  The Elvis sendup ("Evil Hearted Ada") excesses the great man's excess with its ridiculously overcooked reverb and hiccups, and he even does a credible job of conveying some of the coiled menace inherent in Robert Johnson's "32-20".  That latter influence is more important than the former:  growing into the blues as opposed to the previous album's rockabilly, the album as a whole also displays considerable more variety than the one-dimensional Flamingo.  There's a fine balance between slower numbers such as the Charlie Chaplin inspired (?) "City Lights," (another excellent vocal performance - Loney operates almost as a method actor on this album, slipping into different character voices on each tune), and harder-charging rockers such as the ferocious title track, which both embodies and sends up angsty, angry, lustful teenage rebellion.  The amped-up wall of blooze guitars chomp at the heels like gallopping greyhounds, but the granite-shattering harmonica (of all things) rocks even harder, especially on the wallopping break.  "Yesterday's Numbers," is the Sticky-est track, with a jangle-blues guitar riff that's a blatant nod to "Street Fighting Man," and while's it's not quite up to that level of primo Stones, it's still an excellent growler, with Loney's tone attempting (and succeeding at) both Jaggeresque seduction and Jaggeresque sneering with a sinister smirk.  Two other tracks stand out, one being a Randy Newman cover that's expectedly well-constructed and lyrically hilarious ("Have You Seen My Baby?" a clueless cuckold's lament), and the other, the closer "Whiskey Woman," for sounding ominously close in melody and atmosphere to Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," - two years before Dylan released his tune.  (Knowing what we now know about Dylan's tendency for 'borrowing' traditional folk to contemporary pop material, I doubt that was a coincidence.)  And there's not much else to say about the rest - like I said, only 9 tunes that barely make the half hour mark, mighty skimpy if you ask me.  The reissue adds over a half dozen bonus tracks of oldies covers:  not particularly interesting, as those were obviously Flamingo leftovers, but they're mostly mindless fun and do their part in extending the running time to twice its previous length. 

1 comment:

  1. John Oliver wrote:

    Several comments about the C-Noise review - (1) Interesting, the reference to Roy's being almost a method actor in "City Lights," since the old business card I got from him many moons ago listed him first as an actor, then musician..... I think acting has always been his first love. (2) Cyril sings lead on "Yesterday's Numbers", not Roy. (3) I'm pretty sure that's Tim Lynch on most (if not all) of the slide parts, not Cyril. Also, I've heard so many variations on one or more of the Stones commenting about the album and/or the Groovies' take on "Jumping Jack Flash", that I seriously doubt any of them are true. Yeah, it's a Stones-ish sounding album, but the only reason for the comparisons to "Sticky Fingers" was the timing of the release of the 2 albums. Otherwise, little similarities.....