Survival of the Fittest


Ted Nugent still puts more amplification on his stage than all of the current millennium repaints doing the “Detroit” thing combined. It’s a critical factor, megatonnage being a stern measure of significance in loud guitar. Think not? Then you’re a girl, period.

The toting of more hot, whirling metal to the fray is an American white-boy religious practice. Whether it’s 30 seconds over Baghdad, 30 seconds in the woodlot, or 30 seconds in Pontiac, crushing the foe or audience under an avalanche of high explosives—TNT or the acoustic kind—makes the old rod hard.

The whackmaster always understood. Ted’s ear toward the loudspeaker-loaded side of the stage didn’t really work so hot before he started selling records—proof he had the right stuff.

Nuge’s only failing was that after Cat Scratch Fever his catalog developed a case of catalepsy. Sure, “Paralyzed” could have fit on Ted Nugent and “Wango Tango” had some of the old magic. But any honest fan will tell ya the records they came on were wrapping paper. Post-’77, only Little Miss Dangerous gained ground: the case of a blind pig finding the truffle in electro-drums, and a hankering for celebrity on Miami Vice.

And while Craveman won’t move units like Double Live Gonzo—the national disinterest in boosting anything middle-aged unless it can be portrayed as anile or racked by premature infirmity, you see—it won’t be for lack of the goods. Ted’s cured some real biltong for guitar-jerky freaks seasoned by “Free for All.”

“KLSTRPHNKME”(actually “KLSTRFCK-ME”—nice vocal sleight-of-hand, Ted) reintroduces Nugent’s vibrating feedback and condescending sneer. The twittering Ted-cackles are out in force, the man laughing at his guitar shots knowing they’re landing right between the eyes. “Crave,” the song, is a turkey shoot, setting up with a sinuous shake, hand-grenade power chord intervals, and provocative wah-wah.

Idiots should focus on Nugent lyrics, too, for there is the usual here for their indigestion. Beating on gender-bending, Ted allows he won’t change his sex, for that’s much too complex. He won’t go away, either, the unrepentant homophobe!

Gotcha, sucker! Ted fans don’t care about his flappin’ gums. Annoyance is a key ingredient of the great Nuge shtick. There’s joy in listening to it because the gibes are toss-offs, scatting as entry point for the relentless monsterification of ’50s rock and roll licks.

All of Craveman is heavily invested in martial groove. Ted’s full-time secret weapon is that his guitar playin’, for all its heaviness, never mars the rhythm. His band regularly breaks into savage vamps while reconnecting with Hall of Famer riffs. “Wang Dang Doodle” is half-speed “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”; “Goin’ Down Hard” drags ZZ Top (that’s the brown-sound ZZ) to the killing floor; “Earthtones” is heavy metal pastoral à la “Hibernation” with more melodic sense.

Full Bluntal Nugity, Ted’s searing live pack last year, gave hints that he might have a surprise or two like Craveman left in him. And he recently told the Detroit News he might try to capture the Michigan governor’s office in 2006. But I’m more interested in a studio seizure, because he’s just cranked out one of the top recordings of his career.