Raw wrath and metal roll always win out. No matter how retro or staid, the best hard rock in 2002, by far, came from those who instinctively grasped that respect must be paid to ground broken in the mid ’70s, not only by the big guns but also by the toilers and failures. Which brings us right to Raw Trax 02, a compilation whose contributors fall so neatly into the category of biker rock that one envisions them all deeply influenced by AC/DC, Nazareth, Moontan Golden Earring, and the Don Brewer-produced Godz.
Four bands deliver; a fifth is rotten, and will be shunned for the duration of this review. (They’re at the tail end of the disc, so no one has to endure them to hear the good stuff.)
But first off is American Dog, of the corny name but distinctly un-corny bluesoid metal. The beats on “TV Disease” and “Shitkicker” are locked in, living on the highway. Blown out of the water as Salty Dog a dozen years ago by the Nirvana revolution, the sound is now stripped anti-Hollywood middle-American. The band knows that their place isn’t selling anything but live music for the near to down-and-out, and they do it pretty well. They probably work in tattoo shops that are infrequently closed down by health inspectors.
And even that’s not as scary as Billy Butcher, an old-fashioned Billy Gibbons-style songwriter and axman who acts like the last decade never happened. Way beyond the Black Keys, “Stateside Walking Shoes” squanks along like an engine with one scored cylinder backfiring against the other five — in a good way. Even better, when you expect Butcher to get all hackneyed and start singing about leaving trunks or one bourbon, one shot, and one beer, he reaches for the Benzedrine. Johnny Winter And is hidden under the pillow, too, I bet.
I thought Randy Rampage was dead and apparently everyone else did, too, because Raw Trax goes to great lengths to assure the listener his contributions aren’t posthumous. He used to be in DOA (or the Subhumans, maybe, or Annihilator?), and he’s Canadian, I think. So he names a song “Bytor,” but it doesn’t sound like Rush. I bet he always wanted to do that. Rampage also does AC/DC with a barrelhouse electric pianer tinkling along in the background. Plus a Dead Boys cover, which every decent gin-joint act should be up to.
And, finally, what would an accidental monument to the Godz be without a God?
Raw exhumed Eric Moore, who many believed deceased, too. But he was probably just in jail, judging from his song “Criminal Mind.” Moore’s Godz remain true-blue meatheads, still playing “Mongolians” from the mid ’80s, a song probably left off of 1979’s Nothing Is Sacred. The Godz remain the missing link between Black Oak Arkansas and David Lee Roth — a dubious classification except to those who like to imagine hirsute fiends scaring tourists in Hollister between recuperative naps in the back of a squad car. In other words, Godz-metal is the rock and roll you get from a bunch who are a hybrid of the exaggerated plug-uglies Phillo Beddo harassed in Every Which Way but Loose and Billy Jack kicked in the teeth in Born Losers. Indispensable.