Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Hellacopters - Grande Rock

Showing their devotion to the MC5 yet again by using the name of the Detroit band’s rock-home (the Grande Ballroom) in the album title, the Hellacopters prove that they have nothing to hide!

This record is truly the start of the clean-up of the band. This is not to say that they lost any of their intensity, but along with the loss of guitarist Dregen to the Backyard Babies, the group lost some of the over-the-top ear-splitting cacophony of the earlier records.

Grande Rock opens, not altogether surprisingly, with snippets from some of their influences, including stage raps from Kick Out the Jams, before kicking in with the guitar riff to “Action de Grace”. Immediately the production difference is noticeable and the guitars sound more like Kiss from Dressed to Kill than the MC5 or Stooges. Not that this is a bad thing – just very different from the previous 2 albums and a big surprise to some of their legions of fans!

There is another nod to the ‘5 in the opening riff to “Alright Already Now” (funny that the first two titles reference songs from the ‘copters first two records) which is basically “Rocket Reducer” from KOTJ. The two-guitar team is as strong as ever on “Move Right Out of Here”, which still sounds like it could have come from one of the earlier albums, but just not as clamorous.

The guitar work-outs on “Welcome To Hell” are positively ecstacy-producing! The keyboards become more prominent and especially jump out in “The Electric Eel Index”, but the guitars remain the masters! This song even includes a genius pick-slide duel! Amazing!

“Paul Stanley” has nothing lyrically to do with the Kiss singer, but apparently the progression is stolen from one of the tunes on Paul’s solo album. It has more superb guitar soloing, though! “Angel Dust” is originally done by Venom, though the ‘copters make it their own here and has some incredible banshee wails from Nicke!

Another of my fave Hellacopters’ songs of all time is “The Devil Stole the Beat From the Lord” – phenomenal lyrics and a rockin’ tune, with more Dressed to Kill references. There’s still more of the MC5 in “Dog Day Morning” and then “Venus in Force” is almost organ-dominated, which is unusual for these guys!

“Lonely” continues the Kiss rips, but has a very cool call and response vocal line and, of course, riffin’ guitars, which also sound a bit like Ace Frehley here!

The record closes with “Renvoyer”, which is a reprise of “Action de Grace” and invites the listener to start the record all over again, which I’m sure that many people did! It is hard to get enough of this band!

I believe that Nicke and his fellow guitarists (Dregen and Robert/”Strings”) are some of the best guitarists of the last couple of decades (though I would include a couple of LA string manglers such as Jonathan Hall and Tony Fate, as well) and I could listen to almost anything that they did and be blown away. I can’t fault musicians for expanding their horizons and trying new things. I would be thrilled if they made a dozen albums that sounded like Paying the Dues, but even these cleaner records send chills up and down my spine!