By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Take, for instance, the very best in a fine bunch, Coming Out Electric by Atomic Swindlers from upstate New York. Guitar rave-ups stud lush pop tunes sung by April Laragy, who dresses in a blue vinyl suit and silver boots. Reclining in a drainpipe for the cover, she's supposed to be a mix between Barbarella and Samurai Jack, although you may think a bit of Debbie Harry. "Jupiter's falling," she sings, and it's reminiscent of Be Bop Deluxe's Modern Musicwhich means nothing to many, so think of it as a high point in orchestral rock melody. Also hot: the "Hang Onto Yourself" riff filched for "Diamond Dreamers."
It's hard to tell if Atomic Swindlers are really doing a rock opera about spacebiker lesbian stargirls in love, or just writing good hooks and hanging them on exotic thigh-rubbing imagery to get attention. The drummer is a college professor and is also the producer, delivering a knob job that's sonically Alan Parsons-engineered Pink Floyd-y. Doubtless, no one in their Rochester home must know what to make of it: atom airships crashing into the bay, every day, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.
Download "Chez Maximes" (MP3)
The singer of the Sirens also dresses in a hot vinyl suit, only this one is red and covers more of her. She also loves to perform Slade tunes, which she claims wreck her throat, not that anyone can tell on the Detroit band's version of "Gudbuy T'Jane." Even Screaming Lord Sutch (hear: Lord Sutch & His Heavy Friends) would have to admit they have the thumping beat, gutty guitar, and flashing lights. Add a knack for snappy Brill Building-influenced hard rock and/or rollicking Tommy Boyce-penned tunes like "Under the Moon of Love," performed à la Mud or Showaddywaddy. Three straight knockout shots come in a row: Suzi Quatro's "Glycerine Queen," "Destroy That Boy" (whose origin is hard to trace), and the aforementioned "Jane." Another home run is "Chez Maximes," an ebullient ripper, supposedly penned by the Hollywood Brats, about a brothel. It is said the Sirens are popular in France, where singer Muffy Kroha says the fans are crazed for glam-rock partying.
Crash Kelly's Penny Pills rounds out this new trio, though the band of Canadians sell themselves short by just marketing to pop metal fans, a fickle crowd who can turn a tin ear to things I think are obvious. The title track is wistful; "ELO Kiddies" is Cheap Trick's song complete with bona fide Gary Glitter drumming. "Since You Been Gone" is a Russ Ballard tune based on the "Louie Louie" riff, and in the past it's turned into a hit for everyone who's had the brains to do it. An instrumental is included which telegraphs the licks everyone likes from Aerosmith's Rocks. The band seem to think they sound like Alice Cooper, but enough with the inferiority complex, already.
For a wrap, let's come full circle. "Under the Moon of Love" and other snappy Mud semi-hits that run an unusual gamut from Sweet-like glam raving to simpering but fun Saturday Night Fever pop are on the band's Time and Again retrospective, dredged from the murk of the mid '70s. And brand-new from '72 is T. Rex's Born to Boogietake your pick of the DVD set or CD (the DVD's the better buy, playing like a CD, anyway)which sets up Bolan's quartet as way more thundering and jammy hard rock than the studio LPs let on. The bass player is on fire; Bolan duck-steps nimbly while rockaboogie shuffle comes from a mountain of bright orange amps. And a really large number of girls, who could be described as plain-looking, dance and scream.