Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Sonics • 8

Yes, "8." I have no idea what the significance of the title is*, but I do know why this release is significant: It's the first release of new music from The Sonics in decades! And while there's only four new studio tunes, there are six new live recordings from their recent European tour (you only get four on the 10" vinyl).

To see these guys live—even today!—is to experience rock 'n' roll the way it was meant to be. Their manic, loud, practically deprived performances are what it's all about. I imagine there's no need to "introduce" you to The Sonics, since you probably already know they were a Tacoma, WA garage band from the mid '60s who followed in The Wailers' footsteps, but took it a few steps further, into the grimy back alley of what we call rock. Their original tunes "Psycho," "Strychnine," and "Cinderella" were some of the best original rockers of the decade. (All three are performed live on this release.) So, now we have 8, a short, sharp, shocking piece of wax (or aluminum and plastic) with some new tunes. When I interviewed the band in late 2008 for the article I did in The Big Takeover**, Larry Parypa said they were planning on recording some new tunes but were worried that they couldn't find a producer who could do it as raw as they wanted. Well, it seems they got in touch with Jack Endino somehow, and though Jack only gets an engineer credit, and Larry himself is credited as producer, the record definitely has the raw power Parypa was after. That being said, there's a bit of high end lacking (and that may just be modern ear syndrome), yet the result is overall pretty pleasing. I mean, let's face it. Everyone looking forward to a record like this thinks to himself, "I bet it's gonna suck." But if you've seen them live recently (and they're playing a show on New Year's Eve in Olympia, WA), you gotta figure there's a good chance they could manage a respectable rekkid. And they have...

I like the new tunes on this, especially "Cheap Shades" and "Don't Back Down" (not The Beach Boys song), both sung by Jerry Roslie, and the other two aren't bad either (sung by latter day bassist Freddie Dennis). But it's the live tracks that everyone's most interested in. Well, they certainly deliver the goods, performance-wise. The sound quality's not what you might expect from a 2010 live recording, but then again, the "very good quality board tape" quality is definitely in your face and fills your ears. (Here I'll mention that the other live tracks on the CD are "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," and not on the vinyl, "Boss Hoss" and "The Hustler.") Kudos to Jim Anderson, Seattle soundguy extraordinaire, for not overdoing it, separating it on 24 tracks, or using modern post-production tricks to make it sound clean. Dirty is where it's at, folks, and The Sonics are dirtier than bands half their age. Hell, a quarter of their age!
3.5/5 (The Sonics Record Co.)
* Aha, could it be because there's eight songs on the record? Sure, but there's ten on the CD and that's what most people will buy.
** Issue #64, and available at their web site on the Back Issues page.

1 comment:

  1. Did you notice there are "tracks" pictured on the cover. I'm guessing 8 tracks is the overall message considering the extra two tracks on the cd are really just bonus tracks. Also there is a secret when you hold the vinyl up to the light as well.

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