George Starostin's Reviews



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Markus Samuelson <> (30.06.2001)

I agree with you on Kick out the jams, it's really good and important but I don't listen to it very often. It seems like it takes some courage to actually put it in your CD-player (or LP-player if you´re one of those who think it sounds better on vinyl!). One small correction George, it's actually Wayne Kramer who sings in the falsetto voice on Ramblin' rose. If you are interested in the MC5 and their live sound there are various live albums released by Total energy, many of them with liner notes by John Sinclair himself, who advices you to buy them all, otherwise you don't know or understand the whole story. Well, don't believe him. I've got one called Teen age lust recorded live at the Saginaw Civic Center Januare 1st, 1970 and it's even produced by John Sinclair. I guess he didn't kill himself with overwork while doing this, cause it doesn't seem produced at all. I guess it's acceptable from a guitar freaks point of view (like myself), but you can't here a single line Tyner sings and sometimes he disappears completely for a minute or so. So, if you totally worship Fred Smith's and Wayne Kramer's guitar playing it might be interesting, otherwise don't bother.

David Dickson <> (04.10.2005)

I don't have much time to write this, because I'm balancing three class papers simultaneously, but my God is this the hardest-rocking non-hardcore- punk album of my life. The songs mostly suck, but I don't care--I can barely tell when it's on. Any bone in my body that wants to declare this album less than a masterpiece is completely shattered by the wave of guitar annihilation I'm being hit with. Dated? A product of its time? Wrong. The album represents what the Stooges only HOPE they could live up to with Fun House and Raw Power--anyone who calls the MC5 the "less-impressive roots of the impressive Stooges" is utterly insane, in my opinion, though they're probably nice people. They just value Iggy Pop's ego more than I do (most of the time--some people have other reasons as well. Witness Ryan Atkinson.)

This album is where garage punk and arena bombast meet in harmony and lovey- dovey dissonance. No antagonism here, there ain't. Just out-of-control loud aural crunchy destruction in a vast echo chamber. Yeah, it seems pretty fruity and '60's-ish to have white preachers pretending to be black and exhorting the crowd to have sex in the streets and play generic blues songs and psychedelic fruit-trips about journeying to some Star Trek planet where all the alien women have beehive hairdos or something, but it's better than hearing Iggy let loose with yet another annoying "I'm-pretending-to-be- INSANE!!!" falsetto animal screech that annoys the dickens out of me.

I apologize for the non-eloquence of this reader comment. Stupid macroeconomic models can eat a Kick. In short, this is the underground loud destructive KILL album masterpiece I've been looking for. Only problem--the individual songs are not that good on their own. That's never been a problem for me, but it IS for Mark Prindle. Oh well. We float on different boats, I guess.


Sergey Zhilkin <> (18.06.2001)

You know, when I buy a CD which is only 33% filled, I expect something really good from the guys that produced it. In most cases I start hating the band but this time, however, I dug the whole album. Even the only ballad on here - 'Let me try'. I don't even know why you turn away from this track, that really bring a peice of diversity (after all, who can listen to 100% rock'n'roll album nowdays?). 'Let me try' reminds me Velvet Underground a bit, BTW.

But the rest of album is real excitement. As all MC5's albums, this one is LOUD, too. I had the only chance to listen to the album - when my mother was out. And you know what, it's a real shot of heavily metallised rock'n'roll! Now I don't care about early Stones. Why should I, anyway? MC5 have that early 60s sound plus tons of great and LOUD riffs.

Maybe the songs are not that memorable but if they're put together, it becomes impossible to resist that sound. And I advise everyone to listen Back in the USA as a very big song - anyway, it lasts only about half an hour so you won't get tired much. As for weak places, yes, there are some but all of them are covers so you can't blame the guys much. So take your headphone in case if you have those annoying neighbours around you and enjoy this tasty sound of late 50s/ early 60s.

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (12.06.2006)

I think the reason I first bought this album was coz I'd read that it was high energy power drive rock and in '81 for me, that was often a euphemism for heavy rock. At first I wasn't impressed coz it's hardly heavy metal ( although there are bits that are definitely metallic ) and for years I only liked three songs but now that's gone up to eight. I must admit that the two rock'n'roll covers, I find them to be pretty rubbish. I have this rock and roll covers thing by these session musicians { I call them ' the Fakes ' }, it's one of these 50 golden greats things that used to come out in England in the 70s alot, pure crap, but their " Tutti Frutti " kicks the 5's well into touch ! Would you believe it ! { Speaking of covers, the album cover is great, one of the best I've seen. It's one of those photos that so conveys the frightening spirit of the band and what they espoused }.The title track ain't much cop either but no matter how good or bad it turned out, it had to be on the album. Listening to it, it seems the 5 were trying to juxtapose their new America with the America that they lived in and it's no surprize that their revolution floundered. In later years, the drummer made the astute observation that the revolution failed because they weren't really suffering in the States and revolutions that spring from those that have as opposed to the have nots, are bound to fail. All of the things that the varying groups that made up the counterculture stood for and wanted could be done or had anyway [ if sometimes covertly ], unlike in South Africa or China or Nigeria/Biafra or much of the Eastern Bloc, to name but a few. The lyrics of the title track are telling, and therein lies one of the main reasons why the thing fell down - they already had access to what much of the world saw as everything. But all that aside, there's some great stuff on here. LET ME TRY isn't one of them though ! I think if I was a female that really had been abused and neglected and someone came and sang this drippy splurge to me, telling me the solution to all my woes was to let some sweaty geezer try to get in my pants and try to give me orgasms { not even any guarantee ! }, I'd do a bit of abusing and neglecting myself ! It's an awful track in every way. It's so bad, I wouldn't even populate hell with it....THE HUMAN BEING LAWNMOWER sounds like a musical exploration of the infamous ' Shakespeare monkey classic ' theory which basically states that if you gave a group of monkeys pen and paper and left them for a million years, they'd eventually produce works akin to that of Shakespeare. It's as though someone took a few notes, some guitar tones, bass sounds, drum beats and a voice and swirled them around in a pot for a sufficiently long time and then just poured the mixture into a recording device. The melody is so convoluted as to be non existent, the music never seems to go anywhere and then just when it does, suddenly it's off somewhere else and just as the tension seems to mount, boof ! The song ends ! Yet, it's strangely compelling once you've heard it a few times and while it ain't easy to follow, it's followable. I haven't got a clue what it's about, but in the end, it turns out to be one of those mysteries where the overall sound is what counts. Which is not true of the others, coz while the sound is crucial, the words are equally so. THE AMERICAN RUSE is a case in point, coz while it's a great tune, played with zap and fire, it's really the words that count - this is a song that has something to say ! It's interesting that the band speak of the US being in a state of terminal stasis ( a word so rarely used now that it's not even in the dictionary ), which essentially means balance, usually among opposing forces. They obviously thought they'd come a long way with the ' struggle ' and were poised to win it. It forms an interesting flip side to the title track though. Funnilly enough, I actually agree with the general sentiment of the song......the establishment was full of faults that needed addressing - and still do - and besides, it's a good piece of music. CALL ME ANIMAL is one of the songs that I reckon threw fear and trembling into the hearts of many law abiding parents that would have heard it, just for the chorus and the way it's sung and played. You'd think it was just about the lustiest, most fearful thing ever....but I'm not so sure. Seems to be going in a different direction altogether, although abandon is the aim. Besides which, TEENAGE LUST really does say it all - although it's an interesting story that many guys recalling their teenage years and feelings could identify with. And there's the interesting subtext of going into the music biz as an easy way of getting girls. As stupid as it sounds, right from hundreds of years ago, there's been this mystique about people on stage brandishing musical instruments or singing or waving a composers baton. So the 5 were really part of a long tradition ! Nice tight solos and Rob Tyner succeeds in sounding really, I mean really, scary as the song comes to it's conclusion. It's one of the earliest songs that I can think of that refers to females as bitches, which in itself leaves alot to be desired, but it's those that are referred to in that vein that stinks - the girls that wouldn't give in to male sexual pressure. What redeems the song, however, is in the title - it's about teens and as such, is quite a perceptive piece of writing. Besides which, I'd be more inclined to worry about the content of HIGH SCHOOL. Given that most of the band were in high school in the mid sixties, it kind of makes you wonder just what was going on ! In AMERICAN RUSE, we're told that the chickens would soon come home to roost and HIGH SCHOOL seems to be the evidence. It's a great melodic song, set within a very sing song friendly frame. But that makes it's content all the more chilling. I'm often wary [ and weary ] of those that call for ' the kids ' to be left alone to their own've only got to look at what's going on in much of England at the moment to see the folly of thinking that 'youth' will automatically be wonderful, considerate human beings when stripped of adult boundaries. I wouldn't have been and very few I know would've either. I know the band were pretty down on the production, feeling that their incendiary sound had been sweetened up and sterilised and that as a result they lost alot of their early fans, but I think the producer Jon Landau did the right thing in getting them to concentrate on being tight. From what most of them have said about their debut, they didn't like that either, they wanted to re record it at another gig { as they had been promised if they weren't satisfied } coz they felt it was too sloppy. But HIGH SCHOOL is an interesting document of some { by no means all } of America's finest and where they were at, more, I think, in the early 60s than '69. The fact that it is so singable meant that different strata of society were able to pick up on it though. But contrary to the counterculture's claims of being dismissed as dumb ass druggies and not being listened to, they were being heard, that's why they were hit so hard. Because while songs like that one and TONIGHT seem to give the impression that 'the kids' only want to listen to rock and fool around and maybe have a little more freedom, by 1970 the middle aged, old and young alike were clued up on what bands in popular culture meant by certain things. They knew by then that in 1963, the Beatles had been wanting to hold more than just hands ! TONIGHT is another fabulous song, apart from the chorus, there's almost no melody, but the song does not suffer because of this. The two guitarists really carry the song with some incisive and attractive playing. In later years, Wayne Kramer said that he and Sonic Smith had such an understanding and balance as players that he now finds it hard to remember who played what much of the time ( he taught Smith how to play guitar when they were in their teens ). That chorus is so lovely, it obscures what's actually being said. As does the absolute killer, SHAKIN' STREET. I know I've made the point but it's no wonder the forces of the establishment came down on the counterculture. Rightly or wrongly, they thought their long and hard fought for way of life was under threat - and it was. I think that both sides were flawed and full of hypocrisy but the countercultural end of the spectrum had the much better music ! SHAKIN' STREET may be filled lyrically with rebellion, but musically, I think it's nearly the outstanding cut on this album. Sung beautifully by Sonic Smith with some lovely backing vocals on the third verse, it's the most wonderfully headnodding, tambourine waving, hip swaying, bum boogieing, marracca shaking classic and while many may think it's not really representative of the MC5, I'd be proud to have penned and recorded this. For me however, the grand poobah of this album is what was, for the band, probably the most controversial track, LOOKIN' AT YOU. There were two versions of this and they didn't like this version, feeling that it was sterile. Dennis Thompson seemed resentful that they recorded it as many bands did at the time, with bass and drums first, then guitars and vocals overdubbed. I remember Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols saying that he wanted to get away from all studio protocol and make an album that was just unplayable and unlistenable. The 5 seemed to have a similar attitude when it came to recording but I still ask the question ' why ? '. The overall result is what counts and this track is a winner. Raw and magnificent, it's minimalistic lyric is brilliant, summing up the feelings of many a shy and awkward teenager whose mind and emotions are anything but.....I've felt like this many times in the past. The song is short and to the point, based around a two note riff { if you can even call it that } and one of the weirdest, workable melodies I can think of and topped off with three wicked firebrand solos; the first of these starts off with the funniest 27 notes in guitar history, they're just constantly ascending and I always have a good laugh at their sheer audacity and for the way they lead into the rest of the solo; the second one is really explosive and in the middle of it is featured this incredible 32 note trill that repeats itself - you can't be an average player to do that. Mind you, in saying that, I have heard that trill before, from Ted Nugent (in the mid 70s - now he was a superb guitarist ) and Mark Farner ( on 1970's LIVE ALBUM - he was a competent but not outstanding player ) so I wonder if it was a Michigan lick......The third solo is hotter than a motorbke engine that's done 180 KPH and kind of restates the trill. All the way through, the bass follows the two note riff, adding three passing notes from verse two but during the third solo, suddenly it changes to this ten note run and along with the solo and set against the groove, it is soooo dramatic and an absolutely kingpin way to go out. This song had been around for about 4 years so maybe it's not a great surprize that this recording didn't go down too well with the group; one of them even felt it nearly broke up the band. But I don't care, I think it's one of their finest tracks and their classic contribution to 20th century rock. I've heard it live and it's just an ear splitting din, the kind of maelstrom that is great to witness if you happen to be there to get caught up in the excitement, but which can never bear repeated listenings. That version I heard on a CD was crap, I thought the bass cones in my speakers were kaput ! It was so bad that if it were God, I'd be an athiest......

They had recorded about three quarters of the album in the way they say they liked before Jon Landau appeared on the scene and made them redo it and apparently, these are better versions . Also, some of the band had been hanging around with free jazz players and some of the concepts they were picking up on found their way into the music. Which, I suppose, makes it a little more than proto punk. Proto punk was basically prototype punk rock, rock stripped down to the bare minimum, almost devoid of things like melody, harmony { in the conventional sense } and niceties. The 5, coming from the same region of America that gave rise to the whole Motown shebang { including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson }, some of the most way out free jazzers like Joseph Jarman, pop and rock from the likes of Iggy and the Stooges, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the Rationals, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes, Suzi Quatro, Bob Seger, the Pleasure Seekers, Grand Funk and others, absorbed all of that and were always beyond punk and for many years kind of looked at punk as an inferior art form. They weren't a particularly big an influence on British punk, not as much as the glam rockers anyway, although there's long been an appreciative cache of the MC5 here in old blighty. If I had to make a choice which twenty albums to take to a desert island, BACK IN THE USA would not be one of them. But I'd sneak it in anyway......


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