Blue collar contrasts make for an enjoyable trip

candy coated cannonball coverCandy Coated Cannonball – Jeremy Porter and the Tucos (GTG Records)

Detroit Rock was never just about the MC5 and the Stooges. Ask a Michigan native and they’re just as likely to nominate Kid Rock or techno as defining. Don’t even start anyone aged over 50 talking about Motown and the myriad of soul labels that sprang up in the ‘60s.

Jeremy Porter and the Tucos sound like none of the above. With origins in the city’s punk underground, the trio’s sound is a mix of power-pop, roots rock, alt-country and twangy blue collar garage. The title of their fourth album, “Candy Coated Cannonball”, is a misnomer – the album’s neither overwhelmingly sticky-sweet or explosive.

“Put You On Hold” is a super opener, a heady burst of gritty guitar, warm Hammond B3 and Porter’s emphatic vocal. It’s a rocking song and a juxtaposition, of sorts, that’s apparent in a lyric like: “Time flies by when the conversation is slow.”

Joe's return to normality

We Are The NormalWe Are The Normal – Joe Normal (New Jersey Phonograph)

This is a CD single. I think it's a little sad how the younger generation don't really keep hard copies of CDs or records on the shelf, anymore. They all prefer to store it in the cloud, or whatever, it's just virtualized and abstractly stored in their I-Gadgets. But older rock ‘n’ roll people like me, actually like the little gatefold sleeves with the lyrics and picture.

Joe Normal is my fave USA! USA! power pop contemporary - he writes emboldened singalong anthems for guttersnipes and barflies and aging dishwashers like you and me. He's got a kickass band and always delivers this beautiful pop ‘n’ roll that'll remind you of the freer, cooler, long gone glory days, before the oligarchy mass-hypnotized everyone you knew into eagerly signalling their obedience to the higher-ups, by abandoning their communal nature and critical thinking skills and viciously rat-racing for the most piles of stuff.

Danny Kroha's DIY blues

danny kroha bwDanny Kroha is best known as one-third of seminal Detroit garage punk band, The Gories, which he formed with fellow Detroit residents Mick Collins and Peggy O’Neill in the mid- 1980s. When The Gories’ rudimentary internal infrastructure eroded in the early ‘90s, Kroha moved on to a series of projects, most notably the more theatrically-bent Demolition Doll Rods.

In 2015, Kroha took a step sideways and back in time with his first solo record, “Angels Watch Over Me”, a collection of predominantly covers of old blues, folk and gospel recordings, laid down using an eclectic collection of DIY instruments. Initially reluctant to put the album out, Kroha has returned to the well for a follow-up, “Detroit Blues”, again mining the rich history of the American folk, blues and gospel songbook. Kroha joined PATRICK EMERY at the Bar from his hometown of Detroit to talk about the album.

You’ve spent your entire life in Detroit. What is about Detroit that keeps you there?

[Laughs] Once I saw this fortune teller and she was reading runes and Tarot cards and she said ‘Why do you still live in Detroit?’ She could tell I was doing something with music, maybe I might have mentioned it. She said ‘I’m seeing something in my cards, a place where you should move, that would be better for you and your musical career’.

I don’t know man, it’s just my home, for better or for worse. It’s an interesting place. Really hip places, like New York City, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, are great to visit, but I don’t want to live in any of those places. I don’t like generally being a place that’s lousy with hipsters. I kind of like being the only one on the block!

Dan Denton's one-way trip to a dead end

100 a week motel"$100-a-Week Hotel" by Dan Denton (Punk Hostage Press)

Holy Toledo! I read this book in just two sittings, even though I have awful eyesight and live in a dark trailer with crazy loud kid media blasting at me around the clock. It's that good, you won't want to put it down.

It's one of those rare books for people like me with short attention spans, it feels more like a movie or record, because his masterful and observant descriptions of everyday people struggling to survive under the boot of oligarchs and jackbooted Gestapo in the shadows of the dying empire's corporatized police state, where most wounded, helpless people are born into extreme poverty, abused, neglected, abandoned, and instructed to piss-test and compete for bottom-feeder, no future jobs that never pay a living wage.

Most of us never really stand a chance. It's refreshingly blunt and real, and does not suck-up to booj college standards of asskiss phoniness. It's the real story of plain-spoken, midwestern, working class heroes and heroines struggling to medicate their pain and find some sort of redeeming intimacies, grace and dignity, any consolation or impression of consolation, before passing out and waking up to a shrill clock radio.

People cannot stop themselves from dreaming, from seeking redemption in the arms of a gypsy-queen of the highway, and from sometimes, losing their cool and freaking the fuck out. All these characters are searching for some kind of higher power, divine intervention, warmth of home, even though they are mostly helpless, cursed, traumatized and all tragically ill prepared to meet the demands of rent and still have coins left over for some malt liquor and gas station food.

The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs return with a blast

one more drinkOne More Drink – The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs (Dead Beat Records)

Eighteen years after their last record and a quarter of a century since they formed, the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs have roared back to deliver their best yet. A baker’s dozen songs, overflowing with guitar power and pop hooks. “One More Drink” kicks harder than a toddler with a tooth-ache having a sugar-deprived tantrum in the confectionery aisle of a supermarket.

The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs might be named for the Stooges but they’re from Los Angeles, a shiny and often cruel place that coincidentally did the Dum Dum Boys no favours, but they mix so many influences you might wonder which box to put them in. Don’t bother. There’s punk,Motor City jams, Cheap Trick-style pop and new wave, mixed in with Motorhead-flavoured metal, boogie rock and speedcore.

When Wayne Kramer was in the ascendancy as a solo artist in the early ‘90s, the Cheetahs were his touring support and backing band for a spell. Five studio albums, two live records, a split with the BellRays, singles with Cherie Curie and Deniz Tek, and another EP were the fruits of their hard slog before splitting in 2002. 

Familiar and still fun, The Fleshtones deliver again

face of the screeaming werewolfFace of the Screaming Werewolf – The Fleshtones (Yep Roc)

The Fleshtones always were always out of step with the rest of the pack . Rarely acknowledged in the same breath as the rest of the Class of CBGB partly because they didn’t pander to tastemakers and partly because they arrived from out of town and were slightly late, they were as guilty as any of their peers for washing up on the barren shores of over-indulgence at the expense of mainstream success. So it is that they’ve remained in their own universe for decades now. But they still deliver.

The Fleshtones really do exist on their own terms. They live for the road. They make great records with a touch of eccentricity. They’ve always soaked up classic influences (British invasion, blueswailin’ R&B, garage rock, soul and more) like a sponge to spit them back out like they invented them. There are other bands doing the same thing but few so it so well, or deliver a show.

Psychedelic savagery, deadpan destructions and grooviness

days of swine and rosesDays of Swine and Roses – Pigasus (Pigasus)
Cautionary Tales - Tim Hudspith and Goldentone (Dead Letter Records)
Dirty Paws - Swamp Kitteh (Swamp Kitteh)

All of these folks take me to that small area around Grote Street near Victoria Square in Adelaide, where so much of my life has been spent. Right near the Central Market, Her Majesty's Theatre (where I still remember Willner and Mingus's production of “Tommy” - the stage door was across Pitt Street from my boss's old shop); the Antique Market (where I alternately froze and steamed in amongst the pigeons and dusty volumes for nearly 20 years, formerly Wiggy's Auction Rooms); the recently established Broadcast Bar and the Metro, where I've seen all of the above bands.

All of these place’s are within a stone's throw. You'd think I'd be sentimental.

Not a bit of it.

These three CDs could be the veriest trash, fit only to throw at lepers (and my goodness, our current PM seems to have a collection of those in his Cabinet these days, doesn't he...)

Igneous rock

ultramafic coverUltramafic – Sonny Vincent (self released)

 Ultramafic: An igneous rock with a very low silica content and rich in minerals such as hypersthene, augite, and olivine.

This is a short run of 12-inch vinyl, each copy with its own bespoke, hand-painted artwork. They were put together for a series of art exhibitions in Switzerland, New York City, Holland, Germany and France about 10 years ago. It will look great on your wall and sound devastating on your turntable.

The music was recorded by Sonny Vincent and various bands from 1976 onwards – much of it in tiny studios while on endless tours of Europe and the USA. Some of it has been heard in other versions.

The line-ups include Vincent’s Max’s and CBGB staples, Testors, as well as members of Rocket From The Crypt, Sonic Youth, The Damned, the Stooges, Dead Boys, the Velvet Underground. There’s even an appearance by Ernie Knapp, a guy who drummed for Charles Manson as well as the Beach Boys (I shit you, not.)  Don’t expect polish. It’s all uncompromisingly raw, but always passionate.

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