Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rocket from the Tombs

Rocket Redux
Smog Veil 

Rocket from the Tombs was a backwards-supergroup from Cleveland, who were really only around for half a summer or so in the mid-70’s, but they eventually spawned both the Dead Boys (Cheetah Chrome was their guitar player) and Pere Ubu (David Thomas sang), so it is suddenly and stunningly obvious that Rocket were probably one o’ the most seminal proto-punk bands ever.  Rocket never got around to hitting the studio - too busy smashing local dives to bits - so “Rocket Redux” finds the boys-who-are-now-middle-aged-men getting back together in 2004 and giving the world what we deserved in '75.   The original songs, the original line-up, played with all the authenticity they can muster. Thomas originally formed Rocket as a 'joke' band, a cock-rock parody-of-sorts, and you can hear the snark in his vox. On the other hand, Cheetah was out to slay with his gutterglam razor riot guitar, so the joke is mostly lost in a blur of Detroit-inspired riff rawk, served up ridiculously raw and plenty nasty. It is quite a kick to hear future Dead Boys classics like “What Love Is”, “Sonic Reducer”, “Down in Flames”, and “Ain’t It Fun” before there even was a Dead Boys- and sung by a curmudgeon art-rocker, no less. The dive-bombing death rattle of the Stiv-era DB’s had yet to touch flame however, so these versions are more psychedelic, almost, uh…jammy, ya know? And Christ, were these cats ever influenced by the Alice Cooper band- the 5:33 teenfreaker “So Cold” is “Eighteen”, just longer and creepier, and “Muckraker” borrows liberally from the entire b-side of “Easy Action”. But, ya know, they coulda been influenced by ELP or something, so no complaints here. Oh yeah, and as closing track “Life Stinks” so ably proves, Rocket from the Tombs invented '77 style punk rock. You gotta admit, that ain’t bad for a band that was around for less than a year. At any rate, aside from some truly glunky sounding drums, “Rocket Redux” is a rather impressive display of bad-ass-before-there-was-bad-ass, and if you’ve got any interest at all in rock n’ roll pre-history, then you really gotta give this resurrected corpse a sniff.

- Ken 

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