Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’

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The band’s masterpiece was undoubtedly 1971’s ‘High Time’ LP. Stung by the failure of ‘Back In The USA’ and with no viable commercial future, the MC5 made it on the verge of disintegration. It’s the only MC5 record to contain individual song writing credits, but it still manages to fuse together all the disparate elements of their sound. Its wired twin-guitar assault and riotous free-jazz detonations (check out the nervy repetition of the two Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith contributions – Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)’ and ‘Over And Over’) ensured it was the one true encapsulation of the MC5 aesthetic. 

“High Time” sounds like MC5’s relative equivalent to the Velvet Underground’s “Loaded”, their last and most accessible album, but still highly idiosyncratic and full of well-written, solidly played tunes. Fred Smith’s “Sister Anne” and “Skunk (Sonically Speaking)” bookend the album with a pair of smart, solidly performed hard rockers (bolstered by fine horn charts), and Wayne Kramer’s “Poison” ranks with the best songs he brought to the band (he later revived it for his solo album The Hard Stuff). For a group that was apparently on the verge of collapse, MC5 approach this material with no small amount of skill and enthusiasm, and Geoffrey Haslam’s production gives the band a big, punchy sound that suits them better than the lean, trebly tone of Back in the USA. It’s interesting to imagine what MC5’s history might have been like if High Time had been their first or second album rather than their last.

Unfortunately, ‘High Time’ was an even bigger commercial disaster than their previous two albums. The group’s espousal of left-wing political doctrines meant that they were not only treated with intense suspicion by corporate record labels, but that their righteous rock’n’roll energy was greeted with distaste by the prevalent flower-power movement of The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane on America’s West Coast. Thirty years on, it’s only now apparent that this ultimate defeat was really victory. Unbeknown to them, they’d become one of the best rock’n’roll groups of all time.

Lenny Kaye, then writing for Rolling Stone, called the album “the first record that comes close to telling the tale of their legendary reputation and attendant charisma”. In his retrospective review, Mark Deming of AllMusic called it MC5’s most accessible album, but still highly idiosyncratic and full of well-written, solidly played tunes. While less stridently political than their other work, musically it’s as uncompromising as anything they ever put to wax and would have given them much greater opportunities to subvert America’s youth if the kids had ever had the chance to hear it.

Sadly, High Time’s 1971 release represented the end of the line for MC5. Hard drugs had entered the band members’ lives, and within a year they’d split up, drifting off into various other configurations. At least two members wound up in federal prison on drug charges, and they never did reunite before the untimely death of Rob Tyner in mid-summer 1992

MC5, 
  • Michael Davis – bass, vocals, 
  • Wayne Kramer – guitar, vocals, piano 
  • Fred “Sonic” Smith – guitar, vocals, harmonica
  • Dennis Thompson – drums, vocals 
  • Rob Tyner – vocals

Released July 6th, 1971

Back In The USA: How MC5 Invented Pop-Punk Ahead Of Schedule

The LP was no longer just a collection of songs, it had a purpose, a message – and fans triumphantly carried their favourites from party to party. Connecting rebellion with the counterculture, and blazing a trail for punk rock years ahead of schedule, were MC5, the Michigan band whose second album, “Back In The USA”, hit the shelves smack-bang at the start of the decade, on 15th January 1970.

Released a year after their frenetic proto-punk debut, “Kick Out The Jams”, Back In The USA marked a new direction for a group whose opening call-to-arms caused no small amount of controversy. A mixture of pop tunes and deep blues riffs, it found them matching their rebellious stance to catchy song writing, becoming the blueprint for something else entirely: pop-punk. The opening track is a cover of the classic hit “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard. “Let Me Try” is a ballad. “The American Ruse” attacks what the Detroit quintet saw as the hypocritical idea of freedom espoused by the US government, and “The Human Being Lawnmower” expresses opposition to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. The last song on the album, which is the title track, is a cover of Chuck Berry’s 1959 single “Back in the U.S.A.”

Every strain of this combination of punk and pop music has produced some of the most iconic party tracks in history while offering an aggressive release that skirts some of punk music’s more anti-social aspects. It’s a deadly combination, and one that MC5 lit the touch paper for with Back in The USA.  What distinguished the band was not only its fiery political content-inspired by the militaristic, anti-establishment ideology of manager John Sinclair’s White Panther Party-but the furious, free-jazz energy of the music. Guitarists Kramer and Fred “Sonic” Smith engaged in long exchanges that suggested Sun Ra and John Coltrane.

Where Kick Out The Jams was a fast, messy live album that felt experimental while heralding the punk scene to come, Back In The USA was immaculately recorded, with a tight production suggesting how much rehearsal time must have went into creating it. They hadn’t let go of their revolutionary aesthetic, they’d just acquired the musicianship to match. With short, memorable riffs and a greater use of vocal harmonies, Back In The USA showed the world that a radio-friendly rebellion could be a great recipe for success. With lyrics that combined themes of partying with those of finding confidence as a teenager, it captured the spirit of youth in revolt, while the use of pronouns in the lyrics ignited a feeling that the album was written for the listener alone.

Producer Jon Landau doubtless had a hand in the band’s new direction. A former music critic who would go on to work with Bruce Springsteen, Landau had a natural instinct for pop-rock; dissatisfied with psychedelia’s lack of focus, he was drawn to MC5’s raucous energy, helping them channel it into a bluesy, catchy bubblegum-pop record that rolled party and rebellion into one. 

The problem was: the audience. MC5 had already announced themselves as punk trailblazers almost a decade ahead of schedule. Their turn towards a cleaner, more mainstream sound turned off a fanbase interested in revolt over record sales, peaking at No.137 in the US – over 100 places lower than Kick Out The Jams. Long-term, however, Back In The USA opened up a world of airplay and mainstream acceptance, if not for the group (who split in 1972, after the release of their third album, “High Time”), then for anyone willing to combine anarchy and danceable pop music in the years that followed.

The MC5 also happened to be making some of the greatest rock’n’roll music ever committed to tape. Post-Elektra, the band managed to record two raucous LPs for Atlantic. The first, ‘Back In The USA’, is often considered to be their weakest – and while it suffers both from a dearth of political focus and a thin, edgy sound (it was recorded by rock critic Jon Landau, who’d never produced a record before), its concise, commercially skewed sound was a profound influence on punk groups like The Clash, while songs such as ‘The Human Being Lawnmower’ offered a radical rewiring of the old bubblegum rock blueprint.

Though the album was viewed as a flop early on by most fans, and lacked the commercial success of their previous release, it would later be considered highly important due to the album’s absolute projection of MC5’s core sound and earliest influences.

In hindsight, MC5 were greatly ahead of their time in terms of both the radical changes they made to their sound and template they laid for a whole new musical genre. The group have been nominated – and overlooked – for entry into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on numerous occasions, but their true reward is that the collective consciousness of the pop-culture-loving world now know them as this: punk pioneers who became something so much more – a band that showed the way for forging aggressive catharsis with infectious pop music.

MC5 
  • Rob Tyner – vocals
  • Wayne Kramer – guitar, vocals on first & third chorus of “Back in the USA”, guitar solos on “Tutti Frutti”, “Teenage Lust” and “Looking at You”
  • Fred “Sonic” Smith – guitar, guitar solo on “The American Ruse”, lead vocals on “Shakin’ Street” and second chorus of “Back in the USA”
  • Michael Davis – bass
  • Dennis Thompson – drums

“Dull ache turned sharp / Short breath, never caught,” Joe Casey repeats through the closing minute of “Day Without End,” his voice turning from detachment to anger, struggling above the hammering drums, guitars and horns as they remain largely unchanged except in their steadily building, brutally indifferent noise. This begins Protomartyr’s fifth album, Ultimate Success Today, and in many respects encapsulates the mission of the Detroit post-punk veterans’ music. From their first LP No Passion All Technique to their latest release especially, Protomartyr have had a preoccupation with failure, the volcanic eruption of small, petty lives confronting the overwhelming forces, both external and internal, that bind them to their insignificance and vice versa. Ultimate Success Today places that theme on an apocalyptic and disturbingly prescient scale. These tracks paint sketches of authoritarianism creeping dully into everyday life, soulless populism rooting its way into confused masses, animals trapped between choosing death or the pain that comes with surviving, and above all, the illusory promise of success in a world collapsing in on itself. It is, to put it lightly, not a happy world for Protomartyr

Protomartyr’s fifth album is perhaps the most accurate representation of the protest year we’ve heard. It is an emotional rollercoaster of sheer aggression, chaos, stuffiness and sorrow. The occasional rest points only contrast with the continuous tension that is present on Ultimate Success Today. For the rest, screeching guitars and tight drum lines are ubiquitous, complemented by the talking vocals of Joe Casey and on occasion a groovy bass line. For the first time there are also woodwinds present, which provide an extra dimension. The nihilistic atmosphere and intense instrumentation fit with the dystopian story that the record tells. A story that, eerily enough, has been written for corona for a while. The best moment is the seamless transition between “Tranquilizer” and “Modern Business Hymn,”, which makes up for some fatigue among all that threat of war. At least one of the more interesting albums of the year.

Protomartyr – “Bridge & Crown”, taken from ‘Ultimate Success Today’, out now on Domino Record Co.

Iggy Pop has shared a new song about the novel coronavirus. The song, called “Dirty Little Virus,” begins, “COVID-19 is on the scene.” Other lyrics include, “Grandfather’s dead/Got Trump instead,” and “She’s only 19, but she can kill ya.”

In a video about the song, Iggy Pop explained, “I was moved to write a direct lyric, not something too emotional or deep, more like journalism.” He concluded, “If there was still a Man of the Year, it would be the virus, so I wrote the lyric.” Iggy Pop co-wrote “Dirty Little Virus” with Leron Thomas, who also edited, arranged, and played trumpet on the track.

For those who need an escape, want to travel without moving and altogether keep their ears and minds open.

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Chris Berry – Drums (Home Studio)
Ari Teitel – Guitars and Bass (Home Studio)
Leron Thomas – Editing, Trumpet work and Arrangement (IMI Studios NYC)

Written by Iggy Pop and Leron Thomas

Deadbeat Beat slowly took shape as the natural extension of a friendship begun in high school by drummer/vocalist Maria Nuccilli and guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Alex Glendening. Always at shows, hanging out, killing time and absorbing music, the two moved through early projects and various members coming and going before solidifying Deadbeat Beat with the inclusion of bassist Zak Frieling. By that point the band began finding their legs at shows in Detroit and through a series of sporadically self-released demos, EPs and singles.

In a scene of restless loners, everyone’s in at least a couple bands. While Deadbeat Beat actively percolated, Maria’s lockstep drumming kept time for long time candy-psych heroes Outrageous Cherry and Alex played with trashpunk stalwarts Tyvek and filled in on bass and guitar for Saddle Creek’s Stef Chura and Richard Davies’ recently reformed iteration of The Moles. Even immersed in a wildly creative community Deadbeat Beat stayed on a different path, set apart by complex song writing that drew from more internal perspectives.

While taking notes on the blacked-out guitar scuzz of their friends and neighbours, there was equal time spent dissecting key records by Kevin Ayers, La Düsseldorf, Joni Mitchell, Julian Cope, The Clean, and a whole litany of rainy pop music. Musically varied and lyrically congruous, “How Far” finds the band at the strongest voicing of this strange nexus, one spawned from rough nights at shitty dive bars as the emotional foundations for soaring pop songs that nervously bump into one another. Largely a reflection on asserting and maintaining a queer identity in an almost completely straight crowd, Glendening’s songs hit at the gut level — either doused in syrup like the harmony-heavy “You Lift Me Up” or stretched into an anxious infinity like “Tree, Grass & Stone,” the album’s extended freak out jam that still feels like a confessional indie pop song.

Released August 2nd, 2019

Best Songs 2020 - Dogleg

There’s a moment in “Bueno,” one of the standout tracks on Dogleg‘s excellent full-length debut, “Melee”, where it feels like a ceiling is crashing down on your head. The song starts off all fire and brimstone, surging punk guitars and slammed drums, before settling into a groove — a funky one, possibly? It’s punk, it’s loud, but the melody is undeniable. It’s a full-on party … but then, halfway through the song, they slam on the brakes. The guitars ease up, leaving a simple bass line. You catch the touch of a cymbal. You think, for a second, that’s it, but then you realize Oh no. They’re just catching their breath. The guitars surge back in, and then the primal scream: “Little brother, was I ever a part of it?” Well, it’s screams — they take turns yelling the line, then, one more deep breath … and the explosion. It’s noise, and chaos, but it’s gorgeous, and perfect. The drums roll. Everyone screams. You’re screaming, too, and wondering: Why can’t all music sound like this?

Dogleg “Bueno” from the full length Melee

Band Members
Alex Stoitsiadis – guitar, vocals
Chase Macinski – bass, vocals
Parker Grissom – guitar
Jacob Hanlon – drums

A sting in the summer blossom, “Ultimate Success Today” is Protomartyr’s fifth full-length album. Following the release of Relatives In Descent, the band’s critically acclaimed headlong dive into the morass of American life in 2017, Ultimate Success Today continues to further expand the possibilities of what a Protomartyr album can sound like. The album was recorded at Dreamland Recording Studios, a late 19th century church, in upstate New York and co-produced by the band and David Tolomei (Dirty Projectors, Beach House) with mixing by Tolomei. Featured guest musicians on the album include Nandi Rose (vocals), jazz legend Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax), Izaak Mills (bass clarinet, sax, flute), and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello).

Ultimate Success Today is Protomartyr’s fifth album. Following the release of Relatives In Descent, the band’s critically acclaimed headlong dive into the morass of American life in 2017, Ultimate Success Today continues to further expand the possibilities of what a Protomartyr album can sound like. Another perfect Protomartyr album that somehow manages to explode past its predecessor.

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So excited for this! Best rock lyricist out there today, Ultimate Success Today – three words that barely would have crossed one’s mind when thinking about Protomartyr. In those three simple words though, they once more managed to outline a certain state of being and feeling, many of us are constantly confronted with: The societal imperative of winning. Where modesty, failure and perspective are met with suspicion, contempt or at least ridicule. Protomartyr are at a point at which they masterfully match and simultaneously break with expectations. Post punk is definitely still one way to describe it. Musically though, they transcended that description long ago and this record is just as much rooted in a drone and free jazz framing. A frame in which Joe Casey’s lyrics nest like a nervous, meandering flicker; a moth circling the light.

Released July 17th, 2020

2020, Domino Recording Co Ltd

One of the most exciting rock bands of the last decade, the Detroit-based post punk band will release its fifth album, “Ultimate Success Today” July 17th. The word prophetic isn’t a stretch. With its references to disease, institutional brutality, and gross inequality—symptoms of “a cosmic grief, beyond all comprehension”—the new record matches the apocalyptic mood of the US, and much of the world, in 2020. But it also speaks to the continued growth of the Protomartyr aesthetic, pairing guest vocals and contributions by players associated with free jazz and experimental music with reverb-drenched guitars and brittle rhythms.

Writing about the album, Ana da Silva of the Raincoats says: “Our world has reached a point that makes us afraid: fires, floods, earthquakes, hunger, war, intolerance…there are cries of despair. Is there any hope?” . Protomartyr’s artistic growth, the uncanny influence of Robocop, and other doomed and damned topics.

In stark contrast to its title, Ultimate Success Todaythe fifth full-length from Detroit’s lugubrious post-punks Protomartyr—is a deeply dark album riddled with chaos, neurosis, illness, angst and anger about the state of the world. And rightly so. Yet while these songs are a fitting reflection of an America that feels like an empire on the verge of collapse—with an explosion of documented police brutality and murder, and the subsequent riots against the systemic racism that drives it, and the utter mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to spread at alarming rates across the country—they were all written before that stuff really started spiralling out of control.

In fact, the initial inspiration was frontman Joe Casey’s own physical ailments, coupled with the usual existential dread that tends to reside within him. The result is a harrowing record both sonically and lyrically, one that sounds as much like the product of a terrifying David Lynch nightmarescape as much as it reflects the actual horrors of the real world—a far cry, as Casey explains, from the “happy” record he hoped it might have been.

It’s a weird time, because you learn not to dwell on the past, but you’re also frightened of the future, so all you have is the present. Which is why it’s “ultimate success today.” And at  the end of it you hope that you can seize the day, as corny as that is. With “Worm In Heaven,” the music sounded so beautiful, I felt if I’m going to write a swan song or a farewell address, I might as well do it now and get it off the books, so I don’t have to worry about that later on. They can play this song at my funeral now, so maybe I can think about other things. It’s a way to confront these weird feelings, get them down and then hopefully I won’t dwell on it—and the next album will be the happy one!.

Protomartyr’s sound is forged from the bones of punk and the blood of indie rock. The Detroit four-piece delivers heady lyrics with an ironic detachment in the vein of Destroyer and the Mountain Goats, while the blistering noise and distorted intensity of their music brings to mind Sonic Youth and early Sleater-Kinney. Their fifth album, Ultimate Success Today, continues this stylistic balancing act, with existentially oriented lyrics accompanied by ferocious guitars and frantic percussion that sustain a sense of anxiety. References to philosophical concepts and pre-Enlightenment literature could be considered over-thought if Protomartyr’s sound didn’t possess such raw immediacy. The band’s catalogue is strewn with such musings about life as a fulfillment of a disappointing fate, and they’ve perfected that obsession here. The restless punk spirit and flippant, downtrodden ethos that prevail over the album render Protomartyr’s painstaking intellectualizations as fuel for a visceral winding up and release of discontent.

Bridging the gap between one post punk era and next, these Michigan anti heroes influence is as clear and loud as is their bombast and rage. Album number 5 proving that the possibilities are unbound by any constraints or expectations.

“Angry and exhilarating. In short—dissonant angst delivered with precision.” Socialist Worker

“The soundtrack of an uncertain future, capable of unleashing pulverising guitar noise, but not reliant on it.” The Guardian ★★★★

“Harrowed, humane and stout-hearted, Protomartyr hold out for hope to the end and beyond.” Record Collector ★★★★

Ultimate Success Today

Tomorrow we are releasing a digital single on Bandcamp, featuring two older songs: “Born To Be Wine” and “French Poet.”

We will be splitting 100% of the money received on Bandcamp between the Freedom Fund and Detroit Justice Center. Both organizations are posting bail for protestors while fighting to transform the justice system.

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If you prefer to stream the songs and contribute money directly to these invaluable organizations, we encourage you to do so through the links below:

LGBTQ Freedom Fund: https://www.lgbtqfund.org/donate-1
Detroit Justice Center: https://www.detroitjustice.org/donate

 

Melee

One of the greatest casualties of no-tour 2020 is that Dogleg was just in the process of launching their career as a chaotic live act outside of their native Michigan, their debut album Melee serving as their treatise for world domination in the same way PUP snatched up an enormous following seven years ago by relentlessly introducing their self-titled LP to audiences on an almost-nightly basis for years to come. Fortunately for Dogleg, Melee has plenty of traction regardless of their abandoned tour alongside Microwave—and much like PUP, the record nearly provides the live experience despite listeners’ pandemic-inflicted confinement to their homes.

With “Fox” as an intro—and “Kawasaki Backflip” as confirmation that Dogleg would, in fact, be very much a thing—it was such a joy watching the Detroit punks unveil their record over the course of a few turbulent months. They rapidly became every music publication’s Artist to Watch, legitimizing them as a fully-fledged AOTY contender by mid-year—and, more importantly, legitimizing the anxieties pumped into each of Melee’s ten tracks as near-universal pressure points brought to the surface in the weeks that followed the record’s release.

Dogleg’s Melee is a bristling, relentlessly cathartic collection of pop-punk. From the moment that the opening track, “Kawasaki Backflip,” bursts into its full-band glory, the album never slows down or backs off from the Detroit group’s loud, crunchy, anthemic style. Lead singer Alex Stoitsiadis shouts every word with dire conviction, his voice shredding and straining to deliver some of the best shout-along hooks of the year so far. “Any moment now, I will disintegrate,” he frantically yells at the explosive climax of “Fox.” Melee is the sound of a band pushing off self-destruction through sheer force of will. This isn’t to say that these songs aren’t complex, or that their loudness is a cover for a lack of imagination. The guitars on “Cannonball” splash loudly, creating violent ripples over the rest of the track, while “Ender” closes the album in a six-minute punk odyssey wherein Dogleg ups the stakes at every turn. Melee is exhausting in the best possible way, a cleansing release of tension in a howling, desperate rage.
Dogleg “Fox” from the full length Melee
Band Members
Alex Stoitsiadis – guitar, vocals
Chase Macinski – bass, vocals
Parker Grissom – guitar
Jacob Hanlon – drums