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.