A couple of weeks ago in the city of Seattle, WA I bore witness to an aural assault not witnessed since the last time I saw Mudhoney live and in the flesh. That I had just taken part in the live Mudhoney experience just 30 minutes earlier has no bearing on what I am saying. The Sonics – forefathers to garage rock, punk, and grunge were headlining a star-studded affair to launch the release of their 1st full length album in 49 years, This Is The Sonics. Rooted in the 60’s, yet sounding delightfully abrasive and modern, it was easily one of the best concerts I’ve ever had the privilege of attending. Do you know how sometimes artists will insist on playing their new songs and the audience is polite until the better known tracks come along? The Sonics didn’t have to worry about that – the batch of new songs slot in well alongside their covers of Louie, Louie and garage rock classics / originals such as The Witch and Strychnine. In fact, I think quite a few younger bands would do well to see The Sonics and take notes on how to deliver raw, energetic songs that still have the ability to engage with the audience on a visceral level.
This Is The Sonics is produced by Jim Diamond, famous for his work with The White Stripes and The Dirtbombs. Diamond sticks to what he does best and presents The Sonics in glorious mono – this isn’t a 60’s homage, this is a band from the 60’s sounding like it is still the 60’s. The band features 3 original members – Gerry Roslie on vox & keys, Larry Parypa on guitar & vox, and Rob Lind on saxophone & vox. Rounding out the lineup are Freddie Dennis on bass & vox and Dusty Watson on drums. On the 4 new tracks on 2010’s EP 8 the band had slightly modernized their sound while paying homage to their roots. The saxophone wasn’t as prominent as on the original recordings. I really loved that EP, but with this full length outing The Sonics fully return to the sound of the 60’s, with a slightly heavier / punk vibe. The saxophone is front and center, letting the hipsters dance while their face gets melted by the noisy assault. The band is on record as saying they wanted to put out a record that hits hard from start to finish, and they’ve succeeded wildly beyond anything I had ever envisioned. It’s no small statement to say that this is one of the top 5 records I’ve heard this year so far. The album is a mix of unlikely covers and originals, staying true to the band’s roots.
now it’s time for confrontation (highlights)
I Don’t Need No Doctor opens the album and sets the tone – punk influenced rock ‘n’ roll that is delivered with passion and sounds FUN. It’s only after the song has passed you by that you might realize it is a Ray Charles cover. Bad Betty is an original and wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a Mudhoney record. Gerry Roslie practically howls the lyrics while the saxophone and guitar riffs build to an beautiful cacophony crescendo. I Got Your Number flirts with danger with a wink – a seemingly innocent song on the surface until you hear Gerry Roslie makes it clear that the number is 666. Swagger is clear with the band’s performance. Good times, drinks, and Satan. The evil sax & guitar licks drive the point home. It reminds me quite a bit of the great band The Flesheaters. Living in Chaos is pure punk rock, there’s no way around it. God, I hope I have this much energy when I’m in my 70’s! The album closes with Spend The Night – another slab of melodic punk rock. The drums are perfectly in sync with the sax lines, forming a sort of call and response to the incessant guitar riff. This is pure, unadulterated music. Just what we’ve come to expect and love from The Sonics.
Every song on this album is a winner, though I’ve featured less than half of the songs. There are no slow songs here – an exhilarating journey with the pioneers of garage rock. It just might be the strongest record the savage young(ish) Sonics have put out.
Verdict: Original Punks
For Fans of: Mudhoney, Nirvana, The White Stripes, Dead Moon, Bo Diddley, The Kinks
- I Don’t Need No Doctor
- Be A Woman
- Bad Betty
- You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover
- The Hard Way
- Leaving Here
- Look At Little Sister
- I Got Your Number
- Livin’ In Chaos
- Save The Planet
- Spend The Night