Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Gruesomes: Cave-in!

The Gruesomes

Ricochet Sound

It's a fact: Cold weather means great rock 'n' roll! Sweden and Norway come to mind. If you were stuck indoors all the time, wouldn't you start a band, too? Like the States, Canada had its own garage rock scene in the '60s, including The Ugly Ducklings, The Jury, Q'65, The Guess Who, Les Jaguars, Les Lutins, Les Miserables, and Les Napoleons, to name a few. A few of these bands made it on to Nuggets Volume II, in fact. I'm sure our neighbors to the North had plenty more up their sleeves. You'd be surprised. They really do! Mark Sultan (King Khan), Sexareenos, and Les Breastfeeders, to name a few. Montreal's The Gruesomes developed a classic image of bowl haircuts, black turtlenecks, and Beatle boots, which is pretty cool in itself. They also ravaged Canada in the '80s with their high energy live shows where one could rarely find a soul who wasn't grooving to them. Sadly, the band's breakup in 1990 made them a footnote until they reunited in late 1999 and released Cave-in!, a collection of super fuzzed out garage rock that cannot be interpreted as anything less than a garage rock release of legend, which was followed by sold out shows all over Europe and a memorable performance at Cavestomp 2000. Luckily, Cave-in and Tyrants of Teen Trash have been reissued by Montreal's Ricochet Sound, along with The Gruesomes: Live In Hell, a famous performance at The Pub Flamingo in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1989.

Although The Gruesomes were known for a "punk" attitude, Cave-in has an attitude that's less snarl and more snot. Musically, it's nothing but pure fuzzed garage rock that anyone who fancies themselves a garage rock fan must own, no buts. In fact, the instrumental opening track "Cave-in" has two fuzz guitars, courtesy of Bobby Beaton and Gerry Alvarez. That should get your attention. The followup track "Stop it, Girl" is the stuff that rock is made of with John Knoll's drum rolled intro and enough blues guitar to sound cooler than anything you've heard, but goes to garage rock heaven with Bobby Beaton's teenage scratched voice chiming "Everybody knows that you're a fabulous bird, but you're goin' 'round town with some kinda nerd." Additionally, the tempo lends perfection to a teenage anthem of the cool guy and the flighty girl. This stuff actually sounds like rock made by black clad, boot wearing, teenage bowlheads! An endearing aspect of these guys is that it's all about girls. Not a new theme or new situations, but it somehow sounds new every time. "You're Not the Boss of Me" and "The Deal" take familiar territory, but the former has a guest organ that creates great freakbeat while "The Deal" shows some definite inspiration from The Sonics "Have Love, Will Travel" except it picks up into a frantic upbeat parts that will make you want to dance The Shake in a frenzy! "You Gotta Believe Me" sounds a little older with Gerry Alvarez's almost detached, crooner voice, three chords and...fuzz make the same theme as "Stop it, Girl" make it more empassioned plea than the younger feeling of desperation. There's also a deep bluesy solo that compliments the deeper emotions in its slight complexity.

One of the things that great garage bands are known for is their covers of lesser known, obscure but great songs. It's a way of turning new fans on to great music that didn't see much light of day for its time. The results are substantial since it not only turns fans on to earlier garage/r&b, but makes great rock 'n' roll always relevant regardless of when it's made. The Gruesomes take no exception to the rule by throwing in four covers that are mindblowing, the first being "No No No No" from the lesser known British Invasion band The Sorrows, who can be credited for creating a sound that later became known as "freakbeat." The fast guitar chords and solo that lies somewhere between surf and r & b definitely have the feel of an older song but seems so influential that hearing it will make one feel surprised or embarrassed that they never heard of The Sorrows. This is followed up by Jackson, Barnes, and Tubbs "Come and See Me (I'm Your Man)," a lesser known hit from R & B/Soul singer J.J. Jackson. Bobby Beaton howls the "soul" out of it, and the louder guitar detach it from the original but give it an appropriate agressive lift while still making it a fun song. A special treat is The Wailers "You Were Not Using Your Head," which showcases Gerry Alvarez and his laid back, cool voice mixing in with a slow but catchy garage rock classic, completed with perfect surf guitar. "Hypnotize" seems to lend itself as a song title for a large number of garage rock acts, almost as if it's the new "Louie Louie." The Missing Links, White Stripes, The Singles, and Muck & The Mires (upcoming release and title track "Hypnotic"), to name a few. However, The Gruesomes run chronoligically second in this race since The Missing Links were a '60s garage band. "Hip-no-tyzed" starts off with Twilight Zone keyboards that bring a deja-vu feeling that one could swear they've heard this song before, the echoing fuzz guitar bring to mind The Electric Prunes, but John Davis' sinister spy bass melody, Beaton's surf licks, and Gerry's vocals are reminiscent of Johny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man." Great Combination!

So what's the point of a reissue? The answers are obvious. Either somebody needs more money, a great piece of rock didn't get its due the first time around, or in some cases, the demand far exceeds what's available. In the case of The Gruesomes were not around for long and had no American distribution, which is still the case today. Therefore, Ricochet Sound. When one considers that the value of the American Dollar is dropping, $15 for music that is an absolute must own for anyone who thinks they're garage rock fans is a bargain. In fact, owning a copy of at least one of The Gruesomes started seven years later than The Chesterfield Kings, they were they're Canadian cohorts for a short time. The music is fun, loud, definitely '60s garage inspired, but but The Gruesomes have A LOT more fuzz. They defined FUZZ!

One can also find The Gruesomes on The Knights of Fuzz DVD along with The Chesterfield Kings, The Marshmallow Overcoat, The Woggles, The Cynics, and many more.

Here's some great footage:

1 comment:

Mary Shelley Overdrive said...

Mary Shelley Overdrive has a new EP available for FREE download. It's a collection of cover songs recorded during practice sessions, rehearsals, etc. during the recording of our (as yet untitled) LP.

Included on the album are covers of songs by Blue Oyster Cult, Antiseen, Black Flag, Devo, Bo Diddley, The White Stripes and The Vaselines, as well as an interpretation of the '60s Batman theme. No money should change hands for this album. Feel free to post it on your blog or share it however you choose.

You can download Hideous Sexy here:

(2Shared is a bit clunky, but we opted for this service because it allows us to track download numbers.)

You can find us online at
If 2shared gives you problems, there is a Megaupload mirror at our main website.