Out of time but not running on empty
Out of Time – Sonic’s Rendezvous Band (Easy Action)
Some bands defy objective assessment and Sonic’s Rendezvous Band is one of them. So let’s not even try to pretend.
How can you be objective about a band that issued just one single in its lifetime when it happens to be “City Slang”, inarguably the greatest rock and roll seven-inch of all time? Can you really question the worth of a band whose lineage is former MC5, Rationals, Stooges and The Up members?
Yes, you could. But that’s just you.
Read the definitive history here. When you’re finished hanging your head in shame and mutterijng about how you could not have not known about them, proceed to the Easy Action label website and buy whatever back catalogue’s still in stock.
Parts of “Out Of Time” have surfaced in various forms elsewhere – most of it in lower fidelity. It’s an historically important artefact.
Recorded on a Monday night (!) in February 1980 at the band’s spiritual home (now a carpark), the Second Chance club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, “Out Of Time” captures the band at the end of its life cycle, but with its flame still burning brightly.
The band had been around since 1974 and had failed to attract big label interest, so its commercial prospects were non-existent. All members but co-vocalist-guitarist Scott Morgan had toured Europe as Iggy Pop’s backing band (augmented by ex-Stooge Scott Thurston on keys) two years previously, but SRB itself rarely played outside its home state.
Band leader Fred Smith had found a love interest in punk poetess Patti Smith and his investment in SRB was subsiding. The band ceased to exist in the Spring of 1980 and this is its last known recording.
So how does it sound?
A nonchalant “Hello” from Sonic Smith and a squall of building feedback announces opening track “Song L”. Choppy chords and drum accents before the beast lumbers to full power. Then we’re off to the faces. The sound is punchy and volatile – much like the band.
“You’re So Great” is more of the same with Smith’s voice the very definition of “a guitar player’s vocal” (that is, right out on the edge), and twin guitar tones from Morgan and Sonic that leave an indelible mark.
Scott Asheton was at a drumming peak here with a bottom end kick like a herd of mules and a handful of simple but simply effective patterns. Gary Rasmussen’s bass-lines are running right through the songs without the affectations of wasted notes. They were simply a force of nature.
Rasmussen takes the spotlight for a brief moment with a drawling, slightly off-key version of the Stones’ “Flight 505” that doesn’t quite reach cruising height, but this was part of the charm of SRB. Never flashy but happy to take some chances.
Smith’s material outnumbers Morgan’s at this late stage of the band’s life and sounds a touch low in the mix (“Earthy” and a muscular “Heaven Earth”) when he gets his chance at the mic. Will be the
The gems for many will be the previously little-heard originals in “China Fields” and “American Boy”. The former is an evocative, rolling instrumental with an up vibe, the latter a jazzy builder that features restrained, note bending guitars and Smith with stream-of-consciousness vocals and saxophone. You won’t hear either to better effect than on this record.
Have you ever been told that “City Slang” is the greatest rock and roll single of all time? Oh yes, that’s right…there is no better finisher to a set than this ,and the version that closes “Out Of Time” may not be the hottest committed to vinyl but it smokes just about anything else you can name.
Available on LP and CD so go here and thank me later.