Like the Vines, White Stripes? Try these great albums
About a year and a half ago, when Entertainment Weekly was planning a story on the then-nascent garage rock trend, someone came up with an idea for an illustration to accompany the article: hordes of wild-eyed, guitar-and-Farfisa-organ-wielding garage boys driving back an army of cowering, callow teen-pop boy bands.
While the story ran, that illustration was never assigned. The editorial thinking was that it might be a tad naïve to believe that garage rock — the very definition of a cult musical genre — had a chance in hell of commercially trumping teen pop, much as we would have liked to see it do so.
Yet time has proven that the idea wasn’t as completely nutso as first supposed. Right now, prefab boy bands are on the wane, and lots of people are getting excited by the new wave of rock bands, like the Hives, the White Stripes, and the Vines, that are being lumped together under the ”garage” banner. And, with E Street Band guitar player (and ”Sopranos” star) Little Steven hosting a nationally syndicated garage rock radio show, the media and the public are paying attention to the phenomenon.
Young listeners jazzed by the high energy of the Hives who want to hear more garage rock are certainly in luck — there’s plenty of it out there. The genre has been going strong since the mid-’60s, when bands of suburban kids, armed with enthusiasm and cheap gear, first started plugging in and pretending to be the Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds. Following is a (admittedly subjective) suggested primer/album list for the young garage rock fan interested in delving deeper into the music.
1) ”Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968”; ”Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969,” Various Artists These two boxed sets — eight CDs in all — might be described as an embarrassment of riches. They are ground zero for any garage connoisseur. ”Nuggets” features gone-but-not-forgotten American acts like the Kingsmen, the Sonics, the Chocolate Watchband, and others, while ”Nuggets II” gets even more arcane and delightful with jaw-dropping tracks from limeys like the Creation, the Action, and the awesome Wimple Winch.
2) ”Lyres, Lyres,” the Lyres Formed in the early ’80s by the irrepressible Jeff ”Mono Man” Conolly (of ’70s Boston punks DMZ), the Lyres specialized in the organ-driven school of overheated garage rock. This is one of their finest moments.
3) ”Where the Action Is,” the Chesterfield Kings True believers from Rochester, N.Y., the Chesterfield Kings have been carrying the garage torch since the ’80s. This covers-heavy collection shows them to be as powerful as the cancer sticks from whence comes their name.
4) ”Blue Train Station,” the Cynics Another ’80s-bred band with a deep feeling for the authentic ’60s garage sound. The first album from Pennsylvania’s Cynics’ is an excellent genre study.
5) ”The Real Kids,” the Real Kids Purists may quibble about whether Boston’s Real Kids are a by-the-book garage unit, but their refreshingly unpretentious energy (and leader John Felice’s great songwriting) usually puts an end to any arguments.
6) ”The Greenhornes,” the Greenhornes The second album from these Cincinnatti lads is a corker. The ‘hornes serve up devastatingly great originals like ”Shame and Misery” alongside obscure covers (the Spencer Davis Group’s ”High Time”). Their secret weapon, as with so many garage acts, is the organ player — in this case, young Jared McKinney.
7) ”Ultraglide in Black,” the Dirtbombs This notorious Detroit combo (friends of the White Stripes) drag their fave soul/R&B covers through the muck on this platter — to roaringly great effect.
8) ”The Return of Rock,” the Swingin’ Neckbreakers This New Jersey trio (yes, that was them on that recent episode of ”The Sopranos”) ranks among the highest of the high-energy brigade, and more power to them.
While we’re on the subject, who are some of your favorite garage acts?