Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Hellacopters - Super Shitty to the Max and Paying the Dues

I’m kinda astonished to note that I haven’t written more about this incredible band as they are by far my favorite group of the last couple decades! I know I’ve written a couple of posts positing my belief that these cats are the bastard sons of the MC5, which is the highest compliment I can give anyone! They managed to do everything I ever wanted to do in music – and more – and are probably the sole reason why I can no longer listen to any recordings that I’ve ever done – my stuff just can’t compare in any way, shape or form and this shows me what I should have been doing!

They blasted out of Sweden with “(Gotta Get Some Action) Now!” on their debut album, Super Shitty to the Max. Gawds and Demons! Wild riffs (basically a more manic take on Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” lick) and more energy that you could dream of, tons of feedback, screams and yet, a catchy song! Yes, there are punk influences, but more pre-punk, Detroit sounds that are taken to an extreme – if you can imagine that!

This is a crazily noisy record – I’ve heard that they purposely recorded on a broken recording deck and then fed the entire mix through a distortion box! I have no idea if that is true, but it sounds like it!

The two guitars never let up – solos and licks fly extremely fast and furious and both Nicke and Dregen are masters of their instruments! You can’t even catch your breath between songs – “24th Hell” and “Fire Fire Fire” are gone before you realize it, and then there’s “Born Broke”, a showpiece that really came to life in a live setting, where they played more with dynamics and even more guitar interplay than is on this studio version. This shows how much their learned from geniuses such as the MC5 and the NY Dolls – that regardless of how great your playing is, the guitars need to play together and this set the standard for the future line-ups of this band.

They then go even more over the top with “Bore Me” which is literally shrieked out by Nicke who sounds damned pissed off about being surrounding by dullards! It’s almost a relief when they do a cover of the NY Doll’s classic, “It’s Too Late”!

The tempo is slowed down for “Tab” but is certainly no less intense. This is still a wild guitar romp filled with beautiful noise! “Random Riot” is another live fave and is so damn fast and furious that it is hard to even take it in before it disappears but it is almost like a hardcore version of the Clash’s “White Riot”, in a weird way (at least to me!).

“Fake Baby” had fans chanting along with the “you don’t know!” chorus every time they played it, also. As much energy as the records have, their live sets were even crazier!

The whole record is incredible and closes with the oddly titled, “Sprock in my Rocket”. The dissonance on this cut could empty a room or at the very least, annoy the hell out of your neighbors! I played this at work one day and a teenager pop-rap listener screamed for me to turn it off because it was torturing him! What better endorsement could you ask for?!

A mind-boggling initial blast and these cats would be legends even if this was their only release. But they did so much more!

Some people thought that the Hellacopters had cleaned up too much on Paying the Dues, but this is still a clamoring, jarring ride that jumps out of the gate with “You Are Nothin’” – showing that they have lost none of their attitude! I suppose the sound is slightly cleaner, but the cacophony is still everywhere and the guitars still fight for supremacy on every tune!

Certainly, no one could claim that “Like No Other Man” was anything less than manic! “Looking at Me” – an obvious play on MC5’s “Looking at You” – is another catchy tune with more heavy guitars. Then “Riot on the Rocks” explodes out of the speakers! I don’t think that any hard core bands could play any faster and still these loonies manage to fit in clever guitar solos!

The sublime and very-simply titled “Hey” follows and is one of the masterpieces of this band’s career! An amazingly memorable chord progression, sing-along lyrics, a break down to the super tight bass and drum duo of Kenny Hakansson and Robert Eriksson and then it erupts back into the chorus with shrieks from the throat and guitar of Nicke! No way that I can describe how fantastic this song is – you just gotta hear it!

What could possibly follow that? Well, none of than Sonic’s Rendezvous Band’s near-perfect “City Slang”, which the ‘copters do supreme justice to! I never got to see the band with Dregen, but I did see their first American tour with guitarist Strings and they encored with this with Wayne Kramer guesting and it was one of the most indelible rock moments of my life! I never wanted it to end! Sonic’s fans will notice plenty more nods to this band throughout the Hellacopters’ career, rightfully acknowledging their heavy influence.

An early example of the importance that keyboards would play in their career is shown in “Soulseller”, which also shows off their skills with dynamics. “Where the Action Is" is another insane chant-along, “Twist Action” is a high-energy blast and then they slow things down a little with “Colapso Nervioso”, which is like this album’s “Sprock in my Rocket”.

This slab of wax closes out with the aptly titled “Psyched Out and Furious”, which is pretty much a mission statement for these wildmen!

In my opinion, this groups consists of the reigning gods of r’n’r who have resurrected the ghosts of the Detroit madmen and grafted the power of punk onto those spirits and saved rock music for the last couple of decades. So, I am not exactly unbiased in my praise! But if you’re looking for the best high energy lead guitar mania you can imagine, look no further!