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February 14, 2014

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Post-punk revival, Creedence galore

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival

(Fantasy)

Understandably, the ubiquity of Creedence Clearwater Revival on oldies radio stations may lead people (including this writer for years) to simply not feel the need to dig any further; however, while the singles are rightfully in the spotlight, there are treasures beyond them. 

Despite being from northern California, CCR profoundly shaped Southern and country rock, and it’s sometimes easy to overlook how influential they were for other genres, too, including punk and grunge (Kurt Cobain was in a CCR cover band; before that, Minutemen covered at least four CCR songs.)

The new 6-CD set features all seven studio albums, a disc of pre-CCR material and two live albums; music-wise, it’s identical to the 2001 set (down to the uncorrected 2-second drop-out in the live version of “Commotion”—unacceptable!) but with revised packaging and art. It’s pretty much all the CCR you need in one tidy package, and it provides the big picture while letting you delve into the details.

And the big picture is this: John Fogerty may have been a control freak, musically, but that was a good thing. The pre-CCR material, from Tommy Fogerty & The Blue Velvets and The Golliwogs, is largely missing a spark, with Tom Fogerty as front man, with an exception being The Golliwogs’ standout “Fight Fire” (also featured on the must-own Nuggets garage rock compilation). 

Once John Fogerty took control and lead vocal duties, everything snapped into place. The opening cover of “I Put a Spell on You,” with John’s stirring and formidable vocal delivery, is one hell of an opener, and the band transforms the late-’50s rockabilly number with insipid lyrics, “Suzie Q,” into a hypnotic and slithering 8-plus minute jam.

The debut album began an incredible six-album run of superb full-lengths, with 1969 alone remarkably seeing the release of three (!) albums. Everyone knows the hits, but there are lesser-known riches galore, from the slow-burning “Effigy” or the charged rockabilly of “Don’t Look Now (It Ain’t You or Me)”; the biggest surprise for this writer was hearing CCR’s rare foray into “Revolution 9”-style musique concrète weirdness on the two-part “45 Revolutions Per Minute.”

After 1970’s Pendulum, Tom departed, disgruntled, and perhaps spurred by this, John made the band more democratic, with bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford now being equal contributors; this was CCR’s downfall, with the lackluster Mardi Gras being the result and CCR’s final album. The lesson here: recognize what genius is, and lead, follow or get out of the way.

Housewives

Housewives

(Faux Discx)

There’s a pretty good chance that you will know if you will love or hate the South London band Housewives from the opening chord of its self-titled, debut EP, available on cassette and as a digital download; it’s a brazenly discordant repeated electric guitar chord—crunchy, audacious and distorted to the point where you can hear sparks of overloaded digital clipping fly off the sonic welding torch.

Yes, it seems that the post-punk and no-wave revivals are still going strong, generating music that harks back to the fertile late-’70s and early ’80s, with post-punk being punk’s weirder, more adventurous cousin and no-wave being the raw, misanthropic, atonal step-child.

“In Camera” (surely a reference to the post-punk London band) brings to mind the group This Heat in certain ways, with its furious strumming, twists and turns and impersonal vocal delivery; a prickly guitar pattern gives way to a call-and-response exchange with a staccato bass and guitar skronking, followed by relentless pounding. 

“Medicine Bottle” is another high point, with persistent guitar stiletto stabs and a weird, warped meow-facsimile from one guitar, sounding like a terrorized kitten; it’s jittery, with a constant eruption of kinetic energy, ending with 25 seconds of an unrepentantly low-rent James Chance-minded sax solo. 

The final track “62426” has a small bit of early Devo herky-jerkiness and buzzing alarm interjections, ending with a satisfying, head-nod-inducing lurch that evokes industrial machinery with the sound of metal-on-metal grinding. 

This writer’s only complaint is regarding the vocals, which are a bit disinterested and mechanical; this is certainly a purposeful stylistic choice, but by far, the singing is the least interesting part of the band.

Though sometimes wearying, revivalism is fine as long as it is done right, preferably when it fosters individuality rather than bandwagon-jumping bland uniformity. This writer is happy to report that Housewives is nu-no-wave done right, understanding that genre’s touchstones and capturing the listener’s interest through blunt-force trauma.

by

February 14, 2014

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