Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band - first album

I was lucky enough to know people involved in the late 70’s Boston punk/new wave scene and got to see and meet some of the local stars, but I never got to see Willie “Loco” Alexander. This debut album is a fantastic document of an amazing band, though I’m told that they were even better and more guitar-centric in a live setting. As powerful and full as the guitar sound is on this record, I can’t even imagine how intense they must have been!

Willie shows his respect for the past in their version of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”, which, while turned into a Boom Boom tune, with pounding piano and massive guitar chords, still retains the emotion of the original. The band works together to create their own wall of sound for this one.

Guitarist Severin shows off his chops in the intro (and ending) to Alexander’s tale of Boston music in “Rock & Roll ‘78”. The rocker name checks a number of local groups and shows why Willie is known as “Loco”, with his punk-scat singing, such as his singing/chanting of “moo goo gai pan” as the song closes with Severin’s piercing guitar!

Their “Everybody Knows” is a downright lovely song detailing a breakup and is a bit quieter and slower. Back to the gargantuan guitar chords in “Look at Me” which alternates with walking blues licks to create a fine number. Especially effective is the accented “bam, bam, bam, bam” section towards the end.

Definitely one of my top Willie tunes is “Radio Heart” (isn’t it amazing how many good “radio” songs there are?). Immensely memorable, with a pounding beat and more terrific guitar – I wonder what ever happened to that cat? Powerful as hell and dig the band name checks during the fade!

More unique Willie lyricisms in “You Beat Me To It”, another heavy Boom Boom tune with slightly s&m overtones. A new wave riff rocker with another bizarre subject matter is “Hair” with a chorus “do the bald, do the ball-ed, do the bald” and lines like “throw your toupee away, it’s gonna be ok today!” How he manages to make this a sing-along rocker, I’ll never know!

A brontosaurus stomp feel dominates “Looking Like a Bimbo” with still more insanely huge, distorted and sustained chords. Severin’s lead playing is sublime, as well – fast and fluid and perfect for the song! A drawn out intro leads into the fast rock of “Home Is” (“home is where the hard is, home is where the soft is”). Most of Willie’s songs seems to be based around a catch phrase or a pun, but thankfully, he was able to write real music and make these funny, original, high quality rockers.

One of Alexander’s better known tunes is his ode to the Beat Generation, “Kerouac”. This is a piano-based ballad, but is still an effective and potent song that includes some tough guitar work. A class closer to a terrific album.

This madman rock’n’roller started in the 60’s in the Lost, was briefly in a later incarnation of the Velvet Underground, and worked with other acts before starting his solo career which continues to this day. This is one of his best works and is highly recommended, however it may be found.