Tag Archives: DETROIT ROCK


Who doesn’t love Detroit City Rock??? Be it the jamming Kiss tune or the entire designated scene. There’s ‘60s-inaugurated legends such as Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes, Iggy & the Stooges, the MC5, Bob Seger, even early Alice Cooper, just to name a few top shelf components. Then there’s a host of lesser known contemporary garage-rock inheritors who’ve roguishly popped up in the last decade or more, such as the Hentchmen, Paybacks, Sights, Detroit Cobras, The Go (where Jack White got his start), Von Bondies, and another durable combo, the Dirtbombs.


One thing these legends and semi-popular artists have in common is they define what a motor city madman (or woman) love to do best, strut their stuff in front of a sweltering partisan audience as a labor of love. Asking no quarter and barely receiving one, the latest crop truly ‘dig’ Detroit’s lasting historic figures, be they homespun rockers or renowned Motown soul singers.

Inarguably one of the most energetic live crews now making the rounds in small clubs nationwide, the Dirtbombs, fronted by Mick Collins, a casually-dressed roughly-bearded sneaker-wearing punk-nurtured black man with a beat-up 6-string and rangy voice, rely on frenzied axe exchanges and dual-kit rhythmic fury to start the party. Make no mistake. Collins merits much more exposure on the grand scale.

But he ain’t one to complain just as long as he’s grooving. Wearing shades throughout his mid-October Maxwells showcase, the fully confident powerhouse (tenured in seminal ‘80s underground group, the Gories), took complete control of tunes both old and new. That is, with the exception of an opening balladic retreat, where Collins remained in the wrong key, mumbling through the heartfelt lyrics ‘til freshly added bassist, Zachary Weedon, quickly dispatched the words until the song finally did breakdown only to come back into fruition later this crisp autumnal eve. While less experienced performers would’ve been seriously troubled by such a dubious malfunction, the friendly headman laughed hysterically and burst into a smokin’ version of ranting boho rampage, “Get It While You Can.”

According to their jocularly unbound bandleader, the Dirtbombs have played this renowned Hoboken backroom about four times already during ’08. Apparently, the good rapport shared by Collins’ latest troupe has further heightened their spirited presentation.

Rhythm guitarist Ko Melina hearkens back to the golden age of psychedelic aestheticism when she places fuzzy phase-shifting riffs and sustained tremolo tones against Collins’ beefy leads and Weedon’s spunky bass. Dual drummers Ben Blackwell (owner of boutique label, Cass Records) and Pat Pantaro (ex-Come Ons), usual suspects in the Dirtbombs contingent, are fellow urban dwellers with solid reps. Their job’s to double up persistently restive cadences.

Beat-hardened blazer, “Motor City Baby,” a band staple, got the Maxwells crowd huddled next to the stage shakin’ that ass early in the program. Collins’ most sensitively realized lyrical styling came during “Sherlock Holmes,” a gleefully sneered glitter-rock update of curious ‘70s-related Brit-pop tarts, the Sparks, retrieved from the ‘Bombs most recent long-player, We Have You Surrounded (In The Red Records).

As the sweat mark around Collins’ neck collar drifted down towards his belly by set’s end, the hundred fans on hand must’ve known they witnessed one of the very best high energy rock and roll outfits they’ve see in awhile. Under urging, the ‘Bombs came back for a two song encore that included a winding electrical blues scrum corrupting Curtis Mayfield’s martial arts-procured ‘70s soul hit, “Kung Fu,” and hook-filled “Train Kept A’ Rollin’” shuffle, “I Can’t Stop Thinking About It” (used in a Buick commercial).

Helping to keep Detroit’s always fertile rock scene as vibrant as possible, the Dirtbombs proved they’re still the perfect high-quality cellar-dwelling blue-collar workingman’s band. No mere boogie woogie honky tonk hootenanny’s, this explosive ensemble heads down the open road jettisoning any obvious stylistic derivatives. It’s just ‘50s-baited ‘60s-mated rock and roll all night glorification.

A mangy, cheaply recorded assemblage of 8-track recordings, ‘98s formative Horndog Fest became the self-produced rough draft Collins unleashed on the public as a primordial snapshot, cranking up the volume for several raw, undiluted, oft-times live, pieces. Engineered by respected local producer, Jim Diamond (who’d go on to play bass and tweak knobs for future Dirtbombs recordings), its best moment may be the buzzy organ-guitar blazer, “Pheremone Smile,” a tidy reinvigoration of Blues Project/ David Allen & the Arrows psychedelia.

‘01s resilient Ultraglide in Black thoughtfully regenerated thirteen rip-roaring ‘60s/’70s Rhythm & Blues numbers, creating smashingly dynamic rockist templates for some well known and less obvious fare.

Two years hence, the decisive Dangerous Magical Noise found Collins going for broke on a set of nifty originals. Frenzied footstompin’ frolic, “Start The Party” (with its chilly castrated falsetto), commanding existential anthem, “Get It While You Can,” and glam-soaked T. Rex knockoff, “Motor City Baby,” deserve classic status and left me awestruck when rendered at Maxwells.

But as Collins and the gang leave the stage following a durable one-hour-plus set, all that’s left ‘til they venture out east again is the music between the grooves (or etched into a CD or streamed live on-line). Happily, the Dirtbombs sturdy ‘08 output, contained on We Have You Surrounded, finds them fully retooled, greased-up, completely retooled, and ready to roll, never straying too far from their roots-y brethren cruisin’ the Detroit freeway in high gear late at night post-gig.

An echo-voiced distress warning of ‘you got what you wanted’ gets pummeled home by the turbo two-chord guitar riffs and twin horsepower tom-cymbal percussion invigorating Surrounded’s reeling opener, “It’s Not Fun Until They See You Cry.” Searing jungle-beaten Amboy Dukes-like rampage, “Fire In The Western World,” could be the ultimate engine-driven highlight. But tenaciously chuggin’ rumble, “I Hear The Sirens,” and solid-bodied reverb-crazed rumpus, “Leopardman At C & A” (comic Alan Moore’s short story put to music), also kick up a lot of dust, as does the accusatory quick-spit rhyme scheme aligning forceful tremor, “Wreck My Flow.” A befitting catch and release tension fuels “Ever Lovin’ Man,” where a female Gospel choir backs up Collins’ demonstrative bellowing.

Never forgetting where he came from and proud as hell of it, the resolute Collins may not turn his revolving first-rate unit into a household name anytime soon, but that’s probably not what he had in mind anyway when he christened them the Dirtbombs. So sit back, grab a few suds, light some herb, and let these mightily explosive Detroit denizens zoom through the expressway to your mind. And then go see ‘em live next time they come ‘round. Be ready to get blown away.


FOREWORD: The Sights are diminutive singer-guitarist, Eddie Baranek, and whomever he decides to jam with. I originally befriended Eddie following a phone interview to support ‘02s colorful ‘60s-imbued garage rock set, Got What We Want. For a twentysomething kid, he had tremendous passion and a great knowledge of rock history. I met him at Bowery Ballroom and we partied like it was 1999. That night, he didn’t let a Rolling Stone reporter onto the guest list because that now-sterile publication had blown the band off before. Afterwards, he and the band came over, sucked down some brews, and slept over. I caught up with Eddie again in ’05 at the newly refurbished Manhattan hotspot, Canal Room. That’s where I got friendly with respected soundman, Nite Bob (mentioned below), who got me into a Steely Dan show thereafter.


“Get up! Everybody’s gonna move their feet/ Get down! Everybody’s gonna leave their seat,” Kiss excitedly exclaimed on ‘76s furious pre-punk glam-rock anthem, “Detroit City Rock.” Damn is it good to have that same freewheeling rock ‘n roll spirit back in the Motor City full swing thanks to insurgent bands like The Go, The Paybacks, The Dirtbombs, and Detroit Cobras. Bringing uncommon versatility and some of the sharpest pop hooks to this expansive scene, The Sights, fronted by vocalist-guitarist Eddie Baranek, reach a diverse audience by showcasing resplendent throwbacks at ceaseless gigs.

An American history buff who later attended local Wayne State University, the shrewd Baranek gained tremendous experience playing alongside several older, more talented musicians as a high school freshman, developing instrumental skills along with the confidence to be a worthy frontman by ’98 at the tender age of sixteen.

Now the sole surviving original member, Baranek got tiny indie label Spectator Records to release The Sights colorful ’99 debut, Are You Green?, prior to recruiting current drummer Dave Shettler. Along with former bassist Mark Leahey (since replaced by ex-The Go/ Witches member Matt Hatch), the newfangled trio recorded ‘02s fascinating Got What We Want (Fall Of Rome) with famed garage-punk producer, Jim Diamond, at the helm.

Taken as a whole, Got What We Want never relents, changing direction on a whim and succeeding thusly. Though the carefree “Be Like Normal,” with its stinging guitar, shimmery organ, and adolescent concerns, receives “emphasis track” status, Baranek’s much more enamored by the fast charging Chuck Berry shakedown “One And Only,” the wholesome Fab 4 throwback, “It’d Be Nice (To Have You Around),” and the bouncy psychedelic pop confection “Everyone’s A Poet.”

The Sights abruptly challenge these nifty pop influences with virile bluesrockers like the imperative title track, the bold “Last Chance,” and the pulverizing “Nobody,” recalling pre-metal heavyweights Cream, Mountain, Cactus, and the Amboy Dukes at different junctures. On the aforementioned “Nobody,” Baranek lets it all hang out, capturing skull-crushing psychotic tension by going from exhausted resignation to outraged anguish and then unleashing incredibly urgent primal screams atop the bluesy “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” lockgroove.

Contrasting insouciant teen pop harmonies against hard driving guitar pungency, “Don’t Want You Back” resonates succinctly as organ dollops and a dramatic pause induce feverish climactic splendor. Furthermore, the downtrodden despair of the slow drifting Blues sanctuary, “Sick And Tired” (which seems to brilliantly combine John Lennon’s “Cols Turkey” with the Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”), entirely juxtaposes the uplifting love remedy, “Sweet Little Woman.”

What music inspired you as a young kid?

EDDIE: Hearing the loud pipe organ at church and rare Motown songs. My mom had compilations she passed on, like the Marvelettes.

The Sights influences seem so varied.

EDDIE: We enjoy everything from the Flaming Groovies to Beach Boys “Wild Honey.” We used to be a little mod band in ’98, but I don’t want to sound like the Jam or Buzzcocks. There’s other shit I listen to, like Free, Humble Pie, Traffic and the Nice. All that comes out (in our music) along with soul like Andre Williams. We’re all just music fan geeks. You could tell. Our music is schizophrenic.

DAVE: You want to keep people’s attention so we change things up.

The Beach Boys-styled sweet choral harmonies and chiming sleigh bells counter hard driving verses on the truly accessible opener, “Don’t Want You Back.”

EDDIE: That was like eight songs I wanted to write. I had all these ideas and decided to make one song. Nobody cared a year ago when we put it out. It’s funny and good we’re getting all this attention now. You get a lot of bands around Detroit that tell us our influences aren’t ’68, they’re ’72, like Humble Pie, so we can’t do that. So we try to make it more heavy metal to piss more people off.

“Sorry Revisited” would’ve made a cool ‘68 dirgey b-side.

EDDIE: We did a song “Sorry” on Are You Green. It’s kind of like “Shapes Of Things” by the Yardbirds. And then, Jeff Beck did a little more cheesy laid-back version.

What’s with all the old hippie rock influences?

EDDIE: It’s a natural progression from being a record geek at 14 and hanging out with your pals. My Saturday nights were spent sneakin’ in a case of beers and going to buy records, then, going home and listening to them while drinking. Everyone wanted to play sports, and I was like, “Fuck that!” I just wanted to turn it up. It’s pretty cliched teenage angst. But for us to get into that, we had to be like-minded. When I was 17 and playing gigs with guys ten years older I had to know my shit or be dropped in a second. I went to see Detroit Cobras, the Go, and White Stripes before they were big. It was a good scene. We went to each others shows and supported each other.

There’s this sound guy, NiteBob, who did sound for the Stooges, Aerosmith, and Ted Nugent. He told me great stories. The Nuge had ten squirrels packed in ice. He tried to get them through the airport ‘cause he killed them. They were like, “What the fuck’s this shit?” He also said Nuge had the hottest 20-year-old daughter you’ll ever see.

The buzzing guitar shuffle “Got What I Want” grows into a psych-Blues rumble reminiscent of Nuge’s ‘60s Detroit band, the Amboy Dukes. But at the beginning, I thought I smelled the Strokes contemporary influence on the guitar riffage.

EDDIE: I hope not. I’m not digging the White Stripes, but I totally respect them. It’s like Loretta Lynn and Blind Willie Mc Tell and Captain Beefheart, whereas the Strokes are stuck in ’78, dude. These geeks think we’re a cool retro band, saying “Don’t you know it’s 2002.” Did you see that “Rock Is Back” Rolling Stone issue. What do you mean it’s back? Greg Shaw from Bomp Records has been around for ages and Get Hip Records is cool. The Cynics, the Lyres, I’ll take them any day over that watered down Southern California pop punk MTV shit.

DAVE: I think retro is what squares call what’s always been cool. I don’t see us aligned with traditional garage bands. We try to go earlier for our influences. But we’re not specifically looking backwards. We’re influenced by our diverse record collections. We started going to antique stores and record shops that had vinyl sections. I have a lot of the original singles from the Nuggets collection. I’ve even got the Banana Splits album. Local band the Underdogs used to play at the Hideout when Bob Seger System was around. They did the cool ’66 single “Judy Be Mine.”

The bouncy, upbeat “Everyone’s A Poet” reminded me of Emmitt Rhodes’ or Thunderclap Newman’s early ‘70s pop confections.

EDDIE: Emmitt Rhodes, the forgotten songwriter. We’re not afraid to put in these cheesy piano things. The lyrics “everyone’s a poet and everyone knows it all” is about what pisses me off more than anything. There’s 24-hour diners 17-year-old kids hang out in. They’re like, “I’m on three cups of coffee now. I don’t need beer.” They smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and talk about their bad poems and think they’re cool. And I wrote “how they adore me” just to be a dick.

How’d Jim Diamond’s production help?

DAVE: He’s very open-minded. I had worked with him on a Moods For Modern record in the past.

EDDIE: He helped get interesting ascending and descending harmonies. Everyone says he’s the king of garage and punk now, but he has massive respect for pop history. He’ll go, “Oh Bobby Fuller Four, let’s try something like that.” Plus, he has great old gear like Farfisas, Leslies, Vox organs. He buys shitty ass amps that don’t work at garage sales and fixes ‘em.


FOREWORD: The Paybacks are just another solid-bodied garage band from Detroit. Jarring lead singer, Wendy Case, battling back from years of drug abuse, became the hardest rockin’ chick in the midwest. By ’02, her bands’ rough ‘n ready Knock Loud zoomed forward in overdrive. Since then, ‘04s arena rockin’ Harder And Harder and ‘06s Love, Not Reason, came to the fore. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.

Born in Akron, Ohio, raised in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and now a resident of Detroit, singer-guitarist Wendy Case grew up listening to American hillbilly folk before discovering Led Zeppelin as a Michigan teen. Deciding to become a full-blown rocker, she got involved with San Francisco’s radical ‘80s punk scene then retreated to her home state to get clean.

“I had a bad heroin problem in San Francisco. I didn’t have anywhere to go to clean up so I went to an ex-boyfriend in Ann Arbor. He tried to help me get back on my feet and offered a home.” She then snickers, “I wasn’t planning on being a rock star.”

Now a hard workin’ 41-year-old road dog whose early heroes were bluegrass legends Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, and Flatt & Scruggs, Case is the amazingly gruff-throated leader of the Paybacks. Determinedly resurrecting herself after a 13-year battle with drug abuse, Case has become one of Motor City’s most formidable talents. Her uncannily masculine raspy bark has the soulful scruff of early Rod Stewart and Steve Marriott. Like those two famous singers ‘70s-related bands, Faces and Humble Pie, the Paybacks loose boozy temperament rules the roost.

Living on the West Coast from ’82 to ’88, Case hung out with deviant outré rockers such as Flipper’s Will Shatter, Crime’s Frankie Stix, and her then-boyfriend, Jack Weird of Seizure. She was part of the hugely influential punk party scene while it was winding down due to substance abuse and under-exposure.

“I was like the kid and they were the older rock guys. Everyone was on drugs so that became my introduction,” she offers. “I went down the hard drug road for a considerable time.”

Case soon found sobriety in the multi-cultural melting pot college town she lived in as a teen. But that bucolic “hippieville” was full of addicts. In fact, Case says during the late ‘60s, people busted with weed would only have to pay a meager $5 fine.

“Ann Arbor is a Big 10 community with lots of art and culture. The Stooges and MC5 were from there at their apex. So it has significant music history. It’s where John Sinclair started the White Panther political movement.” She contends, “Great music doesn’t have to be made where hardened destroyed ghettos exist. It’s what happens in peoples’ minds and hearts. We had an ideal advantage over others because there was enlightenment, knowledge sharing, and spiritual empowerment.”

In high school Case hung out with the Cult Heroes and Destroy All Monsters at the end of the Sonic Rendezvous era. Her band, Ten High, along with the Rationals and the Ups, were pretty significant in terms of modern garage punk.

“Before it started happening in Detroit, where little bastions of manicured lawns go right into Crack Central, Ann Arbor was all over it. That was ten years prior to the Paybacks,” she informs. “We were doing obscure covers by Mark Martin and the Haunted, real garage pioneers. Then, bands like the Detroit Cobras began doing similar things. They were doing more of a garage-soul version. We had an entire little scene that migrated to Detroit.”

Along with Ten High, regional outfits the Hentchmen and Fortune & Maltese gained exposure in the early ‘90s. Soon, the Gories took hold, spawning the Demolition Doll Rods, whose primitive 3-chord rock minimalism was sufficiently crazed.

“I liked the novel sounding garage bands. I was into (‘60s psych-garage legends) the Sonics, Seeds, Standells, and Chocolate Watch Band. The Paybacks get lumped into this whole garage scene, but everything is called that now. So we were appalled. We were an arena rock band, so get it straight,” Case demands. “But fuck it! As long as they’re talking about us, we’ll go along with it.”

No doubt about it, the Paybacks revved up debut, Knock Loud, was one of 2002’s greatest finds. Shotgun opener “Just You Wait” sets the tone for an explosive set of balls-out ballistic blasts. Fans of Muffs’ singer-guitarist Kim Shattucks will eat up Case’s demanding screamer “Thin Air.” AC/DC buffs should give the abrasive eruption “Tie Me A Knot” and forceful “Hot Shot” a try. “Hollywood” works as a reliably super-bashed take on Chuck Berry’s durably efficient ‘50s fare.

Though she enjoyed making Knock Loud, Case avows sophomore effort Harder And Harder is more cohesive. Skull-smashing cigarette-stained growls and scowled grunts hurl out of Case’s pretty mouth on the scalding vindication “When I’m Gone,” the slovenly liquor-doused double entendre “Scotch Love,” and the bitchy calamity “Me.” Rough hewn boogie stomp “You And Your Friends” drips sludgy feedback gunk into the proverbial street corner gutter while the snippy “Jumpy” is built atop a familiar Elmore James/ Muddy Waters-styled Chicago blues riff given plenty of horse-squealing shrieks. Intended as a formidable B-side Case thought would “be amusing while everyone else was doing Christmas music,” the carousing T. Rex-borrowed “Celebrate Summer” closes the disc on a fittingly ceremonial note.

“Our band sounds more established these days and the songs are more aggressive, but not by design. It just turned out that way. It’s a tighter sounding record without the big, shiny pop elements of the first one – which was a cruder recording with a different guitarist who was into lots of riffs,” she maintains.

That guitarist was Paybacks founder Marco Delicato, whose replacement (due to touring restraints), Danny Methric, was in estimable Detroit bluesrock trio, the Muggs. Also onboard are two celebrated local garage progenitors from the Hentchmen, bassist John Szymanski and drummer Mike Latulippe. They provide a ceaselessly crunchy rhythmic grind metal heads and punks alike could dig. Together or apart, these proud misfits have logged tons of hours playing scurvy Detroit dives such as the oldest, best known Magic Six, and the now-defunct Gold Dollar, which Case describes as “a hole in the wall that had transvestite shows and was located in the Majestic Theatre.”

Admirably, Case’s gritty tunes, charred shouts, and gutbucket guitar befit the grungy shit holes lining many crowded beer-drenched midwest cities the Paybacks often frequent. She composes her best brash trash whilst pissed off.

“The best ones happen in a rush in about five minutes. Lyrics and music come together at once. It’s pretty awesome when that happens,” she cautiously insists. “I just wish it happened all the time. Sometimes I’ll start with nothing but a song title and build on that. I only really write anything decent when I’m in chaos. So I wait around for the other shoe to drop ‘cause when I’m happy I write retarded cute happy songs. There’s got to be genuine passion.”

That lustful enthusiasm gets put to the test in every sweaty club the corrosive quartet regularly performs at. Luckily, exhaustingly extensive touring for three-quarters of the year hasn’t taken its toll on the Paybacks yet.

“The road agrees with me. It’s a cooperative effort – us against the world. We understand each other well and are respectful of each other. Plus, we were all friends, liked the same music, and had the same sense of humor before becoming band mates,” Case closes.



Image result for THE GO

Though singer-guitarist Bobby Harlow grew up in “super-cushy” Detroit suburb, Royal Oak, with future musical partners Marc Fellis (drums) and John Krautner (rhythm guitar-bass), their nascent musical offerings favored scrappy urban-drudged working class spunk. Thrust forth by the heralded late-‘90s Motor City retro rock revival, the triad’s tersely named outfit, The Go, once included a greener Jack White – but that’s just a well publicized back story.

Truth is, The Go began as a tattered teen band looking for a killer lead guitarist to fully energize their noisily apoplectic garage leanings. Over time, their scruffy elemental restlessness would be superceded by more melodic tunefulness while White became a shining red and white-attired star.

“I try to be as creative as possible. The new album title, Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride, means anything goes,” Harlow allows. “In ’96, John and I were in Mark’s basement making demos – thirty songs no one’s ever heard. Who knew what would happen. I enjoy taking art seriously, but I also like cultivating the ability to laugh at the ridiculous.”

And what might be construed as ludicrously comical is the whole world endorsed the White Stripes without taking a good look at its trailblazing leaders’ past – until now. White helped The Go shape the raw ‘60s-informed amateurism ramshackle ’99 debut Whatcha Doin’ so determinedly accrued.

Murkily menaced voices and cryptic sonic cacophonies lurked inside every gritty fuzz-toned scamper. Gusty feedback scrum, “You Can Get High,” musty guitar-sputtered “Suzy Don’t Leave,” and searing howler “Meet Me At The Movies” recalled the wild primitivism of fellow Michigan precursors the Stooges, MC5, and early Alice Cooper. Chug-a-lug broken-down boogie, “Summer Sun Blues,” willfully defied illumination.

Foreshadowing the trademark six-string stammer Jack White’s popular rudimentary duo (with drumming ex-wife Meg) would make fabulously ubiquitous, the repetitively hook-driven “Keep On Trash” induced the loudest shotgun blast.

“We wrote “Keep On Trash” together in rehearsal. I did chorus and words. Jack had verse and riff,” Harlow affirms. “Jack was good friends with our old bassist, Dave Buick, the James Dean of Detroit and genius behind Italy Records. John and I had stood stage-front watching his old country-styled band, Two Star Tabernacle, once. So we went to Dave’s house to get Jack to join. He was on the couch, said yes emphatically, and was thrilled to join a rock band. It was his dream”

He continues, “ Trouble was, he may’ve worked it out separating church and state doing both the Raconteurs and White Stripes, but when it came to The Go, he couldn’t. His vibe was too strong. So is his routine with red and white, the number three, and the (faux) sister-brother boy-girl act. We butted heads. We were young bulls trying to run down that hill.”

In fact, some leftover unreleased Jack White sessions with The Go will see the light of day soon. Harlow calls them bad tape recordings that don’t relinquish or diminish the combo’s initial primal lo-fi splotch.

Luckily for The Go, the loss of White was improbably short-lived as talented lead guitarist James Mc Connell stepped in. An extremely exciting musician who’d maybe bounced around the underground bar circuit, he praised blues masters Hound Dog Taylor and John Lee Hooker as well as virile rockers Mick Taylor (ex-Rolling Stones) and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith (MC5). Mc Connell’s buttressed leads aided The Go’s self-titled ‘03 sophomore disc (on tiny Lizard King), bringing aboard a germane dirtied-up R & B resolve pivotal to The Go’s development.

But Harlow recounts how he scrapped the original sessions, feeling averse to its polished sheen.

“The ‘red album,’ as we call it, was done in England and was too pristine. The whole London experience, setting up shop in Whitney Houston’s studio for ten days and being catered by a house cook, was too much. You can’t give rockers anything they want and expect the album to sound good. We went into a smaller nearby studio, fixed it, went back to Detroit, threw it on cassette, and gave it to the mastering engineer.”

Moreover, former label Sub Pop had rejected the soon-to-be-latently released Free Electricity three years hence, claiming it was ‘too noisy.’ But a laughing Harlow differs. “No. It was more of a pissing war. I mean, they signed (cataclysmic noise-mongers) Wolf Eyes.”

No such perilous obstructions got in the way of Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride, issued by local pal (and Dirtbombs drummer) Ben Blackwell’s boutique Cass Records. A newfound cordial lyricism and richly dynamic melodiousness pervade Harlow’s sneering misanthropic deviance. Krautner’s paradoxical love tryst, “You Go Bangin’ On” leads the barrage as Harlow’s boogie piano and foggy “Shortnin’ Bread” harmonica underscore its crackling exuberance, peculiarly imbibing ‘80s garage lynchpins the Chesterfield Kings and Fleshtones more than any specific pre-punk fountainhead.

Then again, similarly constructed dispatch, “Down A Spiral” beckons underrated surf-inspired ‘60s hot rod instrumentalist David Allen. Further diversifying the fine set are psychedelic sun-drenched six-string snicker, “Help You Out,” and the reluctant “Smile,” a laid-back echo-drenched restrainer crossing Velvet Underground’s tranquil “Sunday Morning” with the Association’s wispy harmonic pop bromides. Earnest dreamy-eyed charmer, “Caroline,” explores a heretofore unbeknownst soft side and balmy countrified soul chestnut, “Yer Stoned Italian Cowboy,” hearkens back to simmered Small Faces/ Humble Pie blues-rock. Pastoral entreaty, “Maryann,” clips the Four Seasons’ sadly wooed “Rag Doll” harmonies for spiffy accentuation.

Most unexpectedly, The Go give beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s “Refrain” a suitably spherical, highly hallucinogenic, stony-eyed, Woodstock-era glaze.

Harlow says, “That’s a beautiful poem. Awhile back, I was playing lots of Ginsberg’s poems. I wanted to put one to music without forcing it. I found seven that’d work as songs instead of a corny poem put to music. That one sounded like someone at a kitchen table recording at 6 A.M. It’s what we wanted.”

Glad to be totally DIY via production and recording, Harlow insists, right or wrong, it’s the only way for him to go right now.

“There’s no interpreters standing between us and the machines. These are our decisions and ideas come to life. Sometimes engineers made decisions- shape of bass or tom tone, but this music came directly from our minds,” Harlow proudly declares. “There’s a place in the world for this. It sounds like classic rock and roll, but it’s new, same for the White Stripes. Some say they’re Led Zeppelin rip-offs, but I feel sorry if that’s all you get out of them. Don’t rob yourself of the experience.”

Though the influence seems indirect, Harlow admits being a fervid fan of The Who. Wearing mod suits on occasion might be a trivial giveaway, but it’s obvious many legendary rockers have profoundly influenced The Go’s blaring intensity.

“The structures, arrangements, and pop formula may be different, but it’s the same process,” Harlow notifies. “We absorb classic records while searching for obscurities. On a recent long drive, we found The Who’s Live At Leeds for $10. And A Quick One While He’s Away may be their best. Abbey Road I could still listen to end to end. I can’t get over it. I’ve been listening to Sgt. Pepper with headphones on forever. It’s magic. The Beatles were four poor kids who grew to make beautiful records. The first Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix albums are brilliant. Focusing on that positivity is key when approaching our music instead of being self-defeated and saying no one will ever make another Beggar’s Banquet. Why not?”

Understandably, Harlow awaits the next Age of Aquarius, due to hit the universe, according to his estimates, in 2012.

“I stayed in Denver with people who introduced us to the Dalai Lama. This woman explained how they’ve traveled non-stop for a peace group helping refugees get clean water and such. In the Age of Aquarius, anything can happen. Male-female energy could be in perfect balance or something could go tragically wrong.” He concludes, “Back to the timeless ‘60s, we’re intellectual slaves to those artists’ conquests. Maybe it’ll happen again. How’d Lou Reed hook up with Jim Morrison and hang out in the same place and become legends. We had glimpses thereafter, perhaps (Joy Division’s) Ian Curtis, maybe my old buddy Jack White.”


FOREWORD: I was lucky enough to catch this exciting high-octane Motor City garage band a few times, once at Mercury Lounge and the other at Maxwells in Hoboken. Detroit Cobras were at the heart of its city’s ‘90s rock resurgence and continue to impress crowded clubs to this day. Unlike every other garage band, the two mainstays are female – the equally hot Rachael Nagy and Mary Restrepo (nee Ramirez). After ‘05s Baby secured a modicum of international stardom, Detroit Cobras returned with ‘07s even better Tied & True. Genuine R & B pop star Tina Turner would dig these awesome chicks. This article originally appeared in Aquarian Weekly.

Formed in ’95 by since-departed guitarist Steve Shaw, the Detroit Cobras give an original spin to little known old school Rhythm & Blues tracks. Fronted by uninhibited bleach-blonde Rachael Nagy, a chain-smoking ex-butcher/exotic dancer whose plump, ripe breasts expose ‘03s striking 19-minute Seven Easy Pieces, and fortified by debonair dark-skinned guitarist Mary Restrepo (plus a revolving cast of male counterparts), this spirited Motor City combo must be seen live to truly appreciate.

After ‘98s well-received long-play debut, Mink, Rat Or Rabbit, put them on the map, the Detroit Cobras returned three years hence with the absolutely essential faux-soul gem, Life, Love And Leaving. Filled to the gills with extraordinary takes on lost classics by seminal black performers Otis Redding, Clyde Mc Phatter, Ike Turner, and Mary Wells, it gallantly revives an era hip-hop heads and nu metal lunkheads may not realize existed. From the gorgeous tear-stained ballad “Cry On” to the furious hip-shaker “Right Around The Corner,” this stimulating masterpiece will strike an emotional chord with stylish contemporaries while simultaneously getting catatonic slackers hustling to the beat.

On the engaging stopgap, Seven Easy Pieces, the DC convincingly cover soul shouter Wilson Pickett’s “99 And A Half Won’t Do” and Roebuck “Pops” Staples’ call and response frolic, “You Don’t Knock.” Blues legend Willie Dixon’s “Insane Asylum” gets a slow burn duet treatment between Nagy and Greg Cartwright of the Oblivians, whose “Bad Man” was re-claimed as “Bad Girl” on Mink, Rat Or Rabbit.

In the meantime, they lent the bewitching dance medley “Cha Cha Twist” to Johnny Knoxville’s Jack Ass: The Movie and completed touring as openers for ‘70s Midwest pop idols Cheap Trick, deservedly securing the band a larger fan base.

AW: Who were your early influences?

MARY RESTREPO: I grew up on Atlantic Records R & B, not Motown. My mother wouldn’t let me listen to rock and roll growing up. She didn’t like white folks music. I was more into Aretha Franklin, Tyrone Davis, Earth Wind & Fire. But I learned to like it more later on. You have no idea how soul singer Millie Jackson (“My Man Is A Sweet Man”) played a role in my life – her and Betty Wright (“Clean Up Woman”). I resented that stuff growing up, but now love it.

How’d you find such cool R & B obscurities and neat B-sides to cover on Life, Love And Leaving?

Everybody shares stuff. It comes and goes from drinking and listening. We found “Hey Sailor” from Todd Abramson at Maxwells on one of his compilations. He put a bunch of them out. He has a great record collection. “Oh My Lover” was the B-side to the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” But when I went to the Chiffons website, they didn’t list the song so I gave the credit to Ronnie Mack, who wrote the A-side. “Cry On” was written by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint, but was miscredited on our album.

The vital Blues exhilaration of “Boss Lady” seems to cross “Bony Moronie” with “Twist And Shout.”

That’s also from a Todd compilation. Rachael found the Guardinias “Laughing At You” on another compilation. The funny thing is none of us were record collectors. They just pass by our hands and if we like ‘em, we hold on to ‘em.

Where’d you get “Won’t You Dance With Me” from?

Billy Lee and the Rivieras – which was the first song cut by Mitch Ryder. Yeah. And the record, because they hang around town, band member Jim Mc Carty told me it was the first song they wrote. It got re-issued by Sundazed and has a picture of them when they’re real young.

Rachael’s singing is so emotionally compelling she brings back fond memories of the Shangri-Las and Ronnie Spector.

Yeah. If you like that stuff, our first album really gets into that. But you gotta have a voice to do that. I don’t, but Rachael does.

There’s a shortage of good vocalists now.

Totally. But there’s no doubt Norah Jones has a great voice. Rachael turned me on to her. The most important part of a band is the voice. American Idol shows you how lame things can get because a singer’s got to have a personality.

Is Rachael from a tough Detroit neighborhood?

No. She has a mother that bakes great apple pies and is as sweet as sugar. Rachael’s a sweetheart. We’re not tough at all. (laughter) She’s like a little angel. Detroit is a great hustle for little angels. You don’t have to have a real job. Living is cheap. So when it came time to hit the road we had freedom to do that. All of a sudden people wanted to hear us. Now we’re paying our bills by doing this – which is kind of cool. We have a real healthy music scene in Detroit. And we have ultimate freedom ‘cause the cops don’t bother you. We’ve got a lot of record stores where you could find stuff real cheap.

How’d the Detroit Cobras come to be?

We were hangin’ around, drivin’ around. But we really didn’t do nothing until Rachael joined and we recorded a 45 six months later in November ’96 (the bluesy “Ain’t It A Shame” backed with the psychedelicized “Slum Lord”). We just basically sat around, put out the single on a local label, and put out two more (the MC5/Gories-like garage rave up “Village Of Love” and “Over To My House” backed with the lo-fi countrified “Down In Louisiana”). Then, we released a full length, Mink, Rat Or Rabbit. Then we broke up. At the end of ’98 to 2000, we recorded Life, Love And Leaving, also for Sympathy For The Record Industry, and then started touring in 2001.

What does Mink, Rat Or Rabbit sound like?

The title’s taken from a line in an Irma Thomas song. It’s a little more raw and primitive. We were just getting started. Rachael’s voice got a little stronger by Life, Love And Leaving. And then on the newest one, Seven Easy Pieces, she’s even stronger. Being on the road has also made us tighter.

How’d you recruit Black Crowes keyboardist Eddie Hawrsh to play bass on Life, Love And Leaving and do some live shows?

When he wasn’t playing for the Crowes, Eddie joined us for awhile. But he had to go back and do other stuff. He was a neighbor so he was around at the time. He lives down the street from my ass, man. He lives right in the middle of the ghetto. There’s a neighborhood here called Cas Corridor that’s poor, but pretty drug free. You could get really nice houses near it.