These were the first recordings released by Lyres. What else do you need to know? It’s on UK label Dirty Water and listening to it is as close to the state of Garage Godhead that any of us mere mortals will reach.
Boston’s Lyres inarguably were, and probably still are, the pick of the turn-of-the-'70s US bands that went on to wear the “garage” tag. Not that you should use that term in front of Jeff Conolly (aka Monoman), the band’s leader on organ and vocals. And never append “The” to the band’s name. Just don’t.
Never heard of Lyres? Consider this review an education. The rest of you with the remotest interest in the band or the seven-inch vinyl format should just scroll to the end and hit the Buy It link.
In the beginning, there was DMZ, a ‘60s-influenced Boston “punk” band of the late ‘70s who signed to the Bomp and then Sire labels..,and promptly fell off the edge of the earth.
They can find live recordings but a studio EP and a solitary eponymous album were their only recorded output during their brief lifespan (the latter spoilt by over-production - thanks Flo and Eddie!) DMZ were especially notable for two things: Recording a killer cover of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and spawning Monoman, aka Jeff Connolly.
Connolly was the organist-vocalist for DMZ and a more ornery, irascible devotee of ‘60s rock and roll Nuggetism you’d be unlikely to uncover. His online outbursts on the old Bomp mailing list were the stuff of capslock legend. Within days of DMZ dissolving, he’d assembled a new band, Lyres. Other DMZ members would go on to play with The Cars and Ya Lo Tengo. Lyres have colaborated with the likes of the late Stiv Bators and Wally Tax (from Holland's wonderful Outsiders.)
Monoman (so called because of his predilection for the audio format) has a vocal not a million miles away from that of Roky Erickson. He’s been the one constant in countless line-ups of Lyres, some of which have contained DMZ members. Lyres live on today.
“Lucky 7” assembles 16 Lyres tracks over seven, 7” singles and is the last word in the garage rock revival scene (a term Connolly hates) of the 1980s. Most of the songs appeared on Ace of Hearts Records, the band’s Boston home. They’re compiled on an accompanying CD which is part of the box set, not a standalone at this stage. This review is being written from that.
Lyres - never “The Lyres” or the more heinous sin of “Thee Lyres” - made (and continue to make) wired, melodic, energetic, hooky, organ-propelled rock and roll. It’s peerless in its simplicity, soulfulness and freshness.
Its epitome is the first Lyres album, “On Fire” (1984), and especially the first side, where tremolo-edged gems like “Help You Ann” and “Don’t Give It Up Now” blow away anything else in the ballpark. It’s the peak but all the subsequent releases are worth your time of day.
A box set of singles is the ultimate vehicle for Lyres songs. All the greatest pre-download bands should be summed by their 7” singles. This set includes the band’s first recording, taken from an acetate of “How Do You Know?” And “It’s All Right”, put down a fortnight into their existence. These are rough recordings and largely of historical interest (the definitive “How Do You Know?” Is on disc two.) The other singles span the pre and post “On Fire” output.
You might know “She Pay The Rent” from the Nomads’ rather different cover. Great song either way you cut, it but Lyres’ version wins hands-down on economy. “We Sell Soul” brings up the rear on the final single and it’s a magnificent cover of a brooding song by Roky Erickson’s pre-Elevators band The Spades.
How often can you hold up a box set and say there isn’t a dud in the tracklist?
John Felice is one of rock’n’roll’s unsung heroes. A founding member of the Modern Lovers at the age of 15, he quit the band before the sessions that resulted in their classic album, and was subsequently written out of the history of one of the most influential bands of the ‘70s.
The band he left to form, the Kids, made some local waves but ultimately went nowhere, pretty much coming to an end when he went off to New York to audition for the Heartbreakers - a job he turned down.
Back in Boston, he formed the Real Kids, and finally wrote his own chapter in rock’n’roll history with an album for Marty Thau’s Red Star label that goes down as one of the greatest ever – a perfect blend of Eddie Cochran, the early Stones and the Velvet Underground, with killer tunes, energy and feel, and some of the most honest and affecting lyrics ever put to music.