The Mooney Suzuki

Paul Wong

Electric Sweat

Gammon Records

Everybody knows Detroit in the middle of August isn’t exactly pleasant. The humidity reaches damn near appalling proportions with vile and oppressive stickiness that rips any lingering ambition to move right out you. Add to that the swarms of brutal bugs and you’ve got more than ample reason to get the hell of town.

Yet it was into these dire conditions that New York City garage-punks, The Mooney Suzuki willfully marched last year to record their second album. Appropriately titled Electric Sweat, the New York City foursome spent three very steamy days pounding out the disc at the increasing legendary Ghetto Recorders Studio, owned and operated by Jim Diamond, of local garage-soul favorites, The Dirtbombs.

With no AC, a mountain of semi-functioning vintage analog equipment and a location in a decidedly rough part of the city, the tiny Detroit studio is gaining an international reputation as a pressure cooker for talent, having given birth to records by the Come Ons, The Go and of course, the White Stripes. The results here are 35 minutes and 35 second of good old Detroit rawness that would do the Stooges and MC5 proud, with just a hint of Motown sweetness.

Diamond definitely delivers the bona fide unrefined grit that only his aged equipment and humble little sweatbox can deliver, but boys of Suzuki come through as well, infusing these 10 tracks with as authentic of 60s garage/mod sound as anybody else has mustered recently. Maybe it’s not going to revolutionize the way you look at the world or bring peace to the Middle East, but it makes a couple of jaded indie kids uncross their arms for a half hour and shake their asses isn’t that enough?

Singer Sammy James Jr.’s cartoony baritone lets you know the whole thing is just in fun. “Turn on the turntable / and turn me loose” he sings on the title track. “Adjust the levels / let the record spin / turn it over / then we do it again / Got a feeling creeping up on me/must be the e-lectri-city.” The party really heats up though with the organ driven soul instrumental “It’s Showtime Pt. II”, which highlights just how fun simple a old fashion garage jam can be.

Meanwhile guitarist Graham Tyler, the Keith to James’ Mick, is trying to crunch out riffs that just “want be like Pete Townsend, Jimmy Page and Hendrix too” as “In A Young Man’s Mind” points out. Maybe that’s a bit presumptuous, but with everybody complaining that this neo-garage stuff is just purely derivative and therefore ignorable, shouldn’t we be admiring bands that are finally starting to do their homework again? What’s more ambitious and inspired than to embrace rock’s past, in the same devoted way Townsend, Page and Hendrix embraced the blues, RB and other American root music?

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