Friday, January 30, 2009

Live at the Rat compilation

Following in the wake of the live Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s albums came Boston’s Live at the Rat record, which might have actually surpassed those other albums in consistency, if not in historic importance. Sure, not everything is stellar here, but this actually captures some of the best Boston bands, whereas the NY records represented the second wave of groups who were not all great (though, of course, some were).

One of Boston’s best known underground figures is certainly Willie “Loco” Alexander and he opens this set with his ode to the club, “At The Rat”, which describes the music and debauchery that supposedly went on at this legendary nightspot. This is a bompin’, groovin’ blues-ish number and a fun way to start off.

A band called Susan (with no female members, as I recall) comes next with a more hard rock-ish “I Don’t Want to Know Your Name”. This has a darker sound, but is comparatively mainstream rock. Third Rail is also a mix of hard rock and new wave, with a moody tale of a drug/sex/s&m addict named “Rodney Rush”. Now that I think about it, this might be a precursor for TurboNegro, with its lead guitar-isms and lyrics about fisting! Yikes!

Ranting and raving with one of their wildest tunes is DMZ doing “Boy From Nowhere” (which a later garage band used for their name). This is classic, frantic DMZ – manic fun! My other fave comes right up with the Real Kids and their sublime “Who Needs You”. I think that this is one of their best songs and I was sorely disappointed that it was left off of the studio album. But, they had tons of excellent stuff so there was a lot to choose from! This is a pounding punker – less pop than some of their stuff – with perfect “fuck you” lyrics – as when Felice spits out “the best thing I ever did is get rid of you”! These cats shoulda been huge!

Boston was the hometown of Aerosmith and following in their footsteps was Thundertrain, a band that performed some great hard-rock/pop. I think that these long hairs must have influenced Van Halen in style and substance, right down to writing “Hot For Teacher” (a different song but the same idea) years before Roth & the guys. But, their offering here is “I’m So Excited”, which could have easily fit right in on the first Aerosmith record!

Willie Loco comes back with “Pup Tune”, which has the perfect intro lyrics, “I wanna sing like a Puerto Rican hooker, of yeah”. This has a repeating progression that builds and builds and lets Willie show just how “loco” he can be! Wonderful piece of perversity! Susan returns sounding sorta like Lou Reed’s band circa Rock’n’Roll Animal doing “Heroin” in “Right Away”, though the singer has a more heavy metal voice. The song is actually pretty catchy, just not very punky (if that matters!).

A band called Sass does a 70’s update of “Roll Over Beethoven” and calls it “Rockin’ in the USA” and it’s actually cool, in a Rick Derringer/Johnny Winter kinda way. Luckily, I like that kinda stuff! I guess this record really is a chronicle of the changes of the scene in Boston in the 70’s – some of the good, hard-rock hold-overs as well as the new guard. Hey, that song just faded out! Guess that wasn’t “live at the Rat”!

The second Third Rail offering is “Bad Ass Bruce”, apparently about a songwriter who steals from one band to give to another. One of the most original sounding cats on this collection is Marc Thor, who gathers musicians from several of the other bands for his hypnotic “Circling LA”. This comes off sorta like Jonathan Richman with a little more passion and a melody similar to Patti Smith’s “Kimberly” that builds into frantic chaos. Wonder what happened to him…?

One more time for Willie and his classic, piano-based “Keroauc”, that does have some nice, feedback-drenched guitar. The Boize are reasonably punky and funny with their ode to the obvious, “I Want Sex”. Hard-edged new wave comes in the form of the Infliktors’ “Da Da Dali” – these cats were pretty unique and managed to rock and be quirky at the same time!

Another DMZ tune didn’t make it on their studio album – possibly for lyrical content – is another punker, “Ball Me Out”. Short, fast and funny! Something that did make it onto the Real Kids’ album is “Better Be Good”, which was supremely appropriate for this compilation, as it is an exhortation to Boston to revive their music scene! This is even wilder than the great studio take!

More almost-Heartbreaker-esque rock from the Boize in “Easy to Fall in Love”. The Infliktors hard rock/new wave instrumental “Norris of the North” is really interesting, as well. I like these guys – again, where did they go, I wonder? Finishing up the collection is Thundertrain again with the self explanatory “I’ve Got to Rock” – and they do!

The comp is a mix of styles, as befits a big city scene that has produced as many diverse artists as Boston has. This might not be for everyone, but for those who can appreciate a variety of styles, this is pretty darn solid!