(-review by Anguish Young)
“If you’ve been trying for years, you already know this song…” (-The Clash)
Like 32 or 34 years ago, I met this girl over the phone through a friend of a friend, one summer, when all my real homeboys were out of state visiting non-custodial parents, and she was a real marvel-a brilliant, funny, gorgeous, happy/sad person who who was into the Psychedelic Furs and David Bowie. She was a smart, arty chick with deeply woeful blue eyes and a beguiling, million dollar smile who introduced me to The Smiths, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions, Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode. She became my “Pretty In Pink” new wave crush that lasted years on end. I wrote a bunch of songs for her, hundreds and hundreds. In my outdoor unheated attic above a neighbor kid’s garage hide-out, and in my older guitarist’s mouse infested basement rat’s nest apartment with the loudly clanging and hissing, turn of the century pipes providing us with Throbbing Gristle style percussion. Lots more in a Cambridge, Ma sub-basement and in an abandoned pool hall. Many were lost to time, some might still exist on cassettes in mouse infested storage spaces, or in notebooks in milk crates in old friends’ garages. Probably all lost. I sang for over a dozen nowhere bands, all inspired by the groups we loved as wayward teenagers. ‘Been putting out “musicians wanted” fliers for the first time, in well over a decade . If you know that Ian Hunter song, “Irene Wilde”, she was my own personal Irene Wilde. Haunted when the minutes drag, haunted by the ghost of her precious love, the ghost in you, she don’t fade. If you know me, you know I left a part of me back there in the eighties, ya know, when the Pretenders and Divinyls and The Cult and Dream Academy were considered the “new music”.
Anyways…Nobody bothered archiving any of our many bands’ own original post-punk rocknroll music much, beyond some sucky covers recorded on tiny tape recorders in somebody’s mom’s living room, and maybe a video taped show or two when we were still stuck in stage fright stunted impersonations of our musical heroes, mainly because my hard rock gang of leather punks rarely coughed up the cash needed to rent yuppie ass recording studios, and were always reviled violently by trust funded trendy bandwagon music scenesters. Damn shame, too , ’cause summa those songs were rather ripping. Most got shitheaped in midnight moves when I could not pay landlords, or when grunge-era girlfriends threw me out. It’s tough losing your songs and personal affects, artifacts, personal scrapbooks of dead friends and family members all because you lost some collegetown popularity contest when “alternative” got trendy. Everybody remembers the Metallica covers band turned Knack nerds in thriftstore suits, the fat cocaine fratboys doing the Barry White karaoke, and the fat rich kids who knocked off the cool underground band few college dweebs were hip to, and the college boy hot rod “Happy Days” spaz-birds jumping up and down, but all those years I squandered in futile negotiations with local monopolies and namebrand associates only ever ended up with other people getting to record covers of our juvenile demos and a handful of college town copycat bands affiliated with my ex bandmates, it was all a big failure, and tragic waste of time. Gutted.
Some of the old pals are still alive but totally unrecognizable as people, after years of military service or upward mobility. Others, are still rocking in the no longer so free world and have all my love and admiration-I see their stuff online sometimes and always feel happy for them. Less happy for me. Sometimes, we just don’t win, we just don’t make it. It’s tough. Losing with dignity. Summa my old cohorts swear by “Appetite For Destruction”, but really, aside from those first Pretenders records, my fave eighties disc was probably “Disconnected” by Stiv Bators, and all his Bomp! singles…ya know? “I stand accused of lovin’ you, babe…”
THERE’S A FIRE….
“Nowhere Fast” by Club Wow is the crisp, instantly likeable sound of true power pop perfection. It’s inconceivable to me that this excellent eighties-rock group failed to make it big, while so many lesser shoes and haircut bands became Smash Hit celebrities with synthesizers and mimes. Club Wow had it all-chiming pop hooks galore, excellent cupcake sweet singing, gleaming guitar lines and glistening banks of teen friendly keyboards, smart lyrics about delinquent angst, and a line-up of underground music all-stars from the Dead Boys and Testors, Stiv Bators band and Waldos. If you like Blondie, The Romantics, The Plimsouls, The Shoes, Paul Revere & the Raiders-that kinda thing, Club Wow‘s hot new retrospective collection on Zero Hour records is an urgently essential addition to your most cherished stack of cd’s. Raspberries, Cheap Trick, and even Badfinger fans will rejoice when they get their gnarly old hands on this super shiny disc, as it’s a kickass artifact that transports us back to another time when we still knew common people who had two car garages and wood paneled basements with old pool tables and Kristy McNichol and Olivia Newton john pinups from “Dynamite” magazine on the walls and they still let my greasy kid bands with the Steve Stevens hair hangout, listening top Rick Springfield and Billy Idol and plotting out our futures as famous rebel stars. The guitars on Club Wow are out of this world amazing, the drums, the vocals-these fuckers really studied their “Revolver” and “Rubber Soul”, as kids, and had learned how to compose really nearly flawless pop tunes. It’s just so, so good. It’s as groovy as the Records and I almost never say that. If you loved The Las, or Hello Disaster, or The Beat or 20/20, this is right up your record store alley. My friend, the heavy metal drummer who loves Oasis will totally geek out over sthis stuff. It was the early eighties and Frank Secich was managing a chain record store and juggling that with producing and managing a group called The Infidels, with making this extraordinarily marvelous post-punk group, who were steeped in sixties garage and British Invasion pop craftsmanship. Bratty soul music with hints of bright, skinny tie new wave. Most times after reviewing somebody’s record, I pass it on to one of my kids-ya know, if you can’t afford to buy them cars and send ’em off to college, you teach them what you do know-which is just rocknroll, for some of us, but it will be hard to part with this disc, if I ever do decide to share it with one of them. “It’s A Lie” is a sweetly McCartneyesque masterpiece famously covered by Hanoi Rocks frontman, Mike Monroe, on his first solo album. It’s so beautiful, here-easily as good as Mike’s version. Exquisite popnroll treasures from one of the ultimate coulda, shoulda, woulda bands. I love Hollywood hair-popsters, Candy, but had Club Wow been the mop tops to open up for Rick Springfield on that big tour, you can easily picture so many of these songs being turned into overwrought Cyndi Lauper style videos with over-acting drama and colorful threads, and having a smash-hit appeal to my generation of stripey shirted hair product abusers. “Norman Green” is gonna stay in your head all night long, while you are scraping plates, and taking cake orders, and mopping the kitchen floor at your too old for this shit dead end job. Ya always wondered what happened to those guys from Stiv Bators‘ gang, and here they are-a rare compilation of non stop fun. “Reptile House” is remiscent of The Church‘s early sounds, or vintage Flesh For Lulu, or New Zealand’s Nights Of The Iguana. It has that spooky, sultry, gothic tinged menace that served their brother, Stiv Bators, so well in The Wanderers and Lords Of The New Church. I’ll be listening to this L.P. a lot, from now on. How thrilling is it that Frank Secich and Jimmy Zero’s long lost works of heroic genius are being unearthed and dusted off and made available to sneering generations of sensitive bruisers and brooding leather jacket wearers of all ages! “Sally Is Not Home” is as sweet as the Flamin’ Groovies of Boston’s power-pop powerhouses, The Neighborhoods. It really belongs on the soundtrack of a buttery popcorn teenage summertime sex comedy with heart. Why did they stop making those? I don’t get it at all. Frank and Jimmy “knew people”, this should have been a major, major band, even though all you lifers already know how the best rocknroll is frequently unheard, unsigned, unheralded, and seldom-sold by media monopoloies to mass-markets. Your lead-poisoning, slave plantation rulers and depopulation czars and gentrification city managers and enforcer patrols want you listening to Adele and Pharrell, Kanye and Blake Shelton–not Ronald Koal or Paul K & The Weathermen or Chamber Strings or Club Wow. It’s a cryin’ shame you never hear modern bands with creativity and originality anymore like we did when The Cure and Killing Joke were on the airwaves, and you definitely don’t hear music with heartfelt emotions like the sweet side of the Ramones and all the 60’s bands. Frank and Jimmy were both moody geniuses. Ya know, when I was a bad teen, I thought my idol, Stiv, wrote all those songs by himself, the covers, all of it. Man, did he ever have a lot of help. Talented help!
“Sweet Sixteen” is another would have been hit song we all woulda eagerly included on the cassette mix-tapes we made for all of our gloomy death rock girlfriends back in the day, or was I the only one who mixed the sunshine and bubblegum and hot pants and milkshakes up with the crucifixes, hemlock, and postcards from my mortuary dwelling bloody wrists? “Terminal Town” is the sound of me and my long-estranged, Oldsmobile cruising, outcast wave-o, small town cronies, spray painting our junk cars with skulls and iron crosses and frowning at passerby in the parking lot of the MTV bar we were still too young to get into, before they all joined the military or went to work for the dreaded Man. in hick towns like ours, smalltime psychos will burn your house down if you date the wrong cheerleader–they are all driven nuts with boredom, envy, religious superstitions, racism, and competitive military sports indoctrination, and tobacco chewing, hunting machismo, so it’s appropriate that this sullen tune evokes some of that dark ambience of wanna die teenage passions and suburban ennui and broken home desperation and dead end donut store jobs and dreaming haplessly of leaving that shithole on a Greyhound for some faroff big city like in an old Pat Benatar video, or ubiquitous radio Journey song. All the best music has a movie-like quality and you can see broken images and home movies of your own lonely youth while listening to this number. It’s honestly as great as anything on that brilliant Stiv Bators “Disconnected” record. If I had anybody to form a middle aged, fat dad, punk band with, I’d probably wanna cover that tune, or just name our band that. “There’s A Fire” sputters with those eighties “Space Invaders” and “Ms. Pacman” video-game arcade bleeps and zaps and “Valley Girl” keyboards, and it will remind you of Debbie Harry-she could still do a bang-up job if she felt like covering this. Makes me nostalgic for “French Kissing In The USA” and if you like the new wave era half as much as me, you will swoon. Jimmy Zero, Frank Secich, Jeff West, and Billy Sullivan were one of the most talented bands of beautiful songwriters in a decade when big industry seemed to still almost sometimes begrudgingly appreciate such talents. Everything was better then. I’d take Men At Work and Madness over the shit we got now, eight days a week, and in fact, I mostly just play shit on cassette or ancient youtube videos. Call me a grouchy old man, all you like. “You Don’t Go Away” is one of my favorite songs, now. Honestly, this version is invested with so much melody and yearning, it’s just impeccable. I’d heard Stiv’s rough demo, but this is no demo-it’s a wonderful work of gorgeous beauty. Jesus Christ, how did this gang go unnoticed? Drop whatever it is you’re doing and order this CD, now, if you loved Stiv, or The Only Ones, or romantic, guitar driven pop music of any era. Fast forward to track eleven. As stunningly hypnotizingly beautiful as your first girlfriend, who talked you into becoming vegetarian because she liked The Smiths.
THIS SOCIETY HAS NO PLACE FOR ME….
“Pants & Jackets” is my kinda mod-cool new wave! You know, like The Beat, or Real Kids, or Holly & The Italians. Makes me think of middle school and trying to impress the Siouxsie & The Banshees older chicks in the lace gloves with the fishnet and bangles with my checkered Vans, salmon fedora, “Modern Love” suspenders and junk shop paisley smoking jacket, and failing so, so miserably. You know that Hanoi Rocks song that goes, “you said I was a born loser, cause losing is all I’ve ever done”?! The cool girls in my town liked some punk and new wave, but they dated older guys from big cities who looked like Neal X and Charlie Sexton—not gawky twerp J. Geils fans like me with the nerd glasses and Alarm hair. Ha. I ended up with several of those once unattainable women, just as soon as I formed my own early bands with the Sears guitars and Cramps covers. Couple of the old collaborators continued playing music. Me, I was always getting ditched like that monster Jack in the Muppet movies who wants to accompany the gang to Hollywood, chasing the in-crowd down the street with shit falling out of his over-stuffed suitcase and shit. You don’t get far on two feet, by your lonesome. I’m a product from that time and left my heart back there, while everybody else moved on, I stayed behind, ya know, I liked what I liked. I’m not gonna pretend to like the Kardashians and Katy Perry so I can have meaningless conversations with eighteen year olds at record stores. Which brings us to “Million Miles Away”, one of the best songs of all time. I know it’s gonna offend all the Cult Of The Dead junkie tattooed Johnnies, out there in hipster land, but this is hands down, the definitive version, the best rendition of that song, even if you think that sounds sacrilegious, just listen to that guitar. Motherfuck. These boys really, REALLY knew what they were doing, back then. Extraordinarily Quintessential. “Like A Wild Animal” is a feral catcall from the Square Pegs era-me and all my friends used to comb all the college town cut-out bins for anything that looked even mildly punk, or new wave, and would have loved this music had we stumbled upon it back when we were the R.E.M. kids in America, standing in front of Poseur, in East California with our dangling sword earrings and best Inxs pouts. They lost a lot when they lost me, and they can’t reach me today. “My Secret Life” is more throbbing new wave, much like any of your fave one hit wonder bands in headbands and parachute pants, but the songwriting ability rivals Duran Duran and The Beatles, the sugary hooks stay with you all night long. Enuff Z Nuff might have lived up to the hype if their music was as catchy as this. What’s super impressive about CLUB WOW is not just the sterling execution and solid gold hits after hits, but the very real energy they invested into each and every cut. “The Girl Downstairs” is still another undeniable song that one can easily imagine receiving massive radio airplay had it received any promotion at all. It’s hauntingly good pop that’s easily in league with the best bands of the post-punk and commercial new wave era, from Adam Ant to Modern English. It effortlessly eclipses most of the Animotion and Hooters shit that got the permanent green light from the fat cats in the suits, back then. Club Wow were like, as good as The Pretenders, in some ways. Stand-alone greats. This is probably the best “new” elpee I’ve had the pleaure of enjoying in years and years, it’s my kinda music, and if you are in my age group and find yourself still pining for Bauhaus postcards and Jesus & Mary Chain hair-dos and nightclubs blasting Public Image Ltd and girls in Ramones t shirts and watermelon candy kisses and your own first doofy garage bands with the Sisters Of Mercy sunglasses and K Mart drum machines and forty ounces of malt liquor and urinating out the rehearsal space window and killing all the grass, like I am, you’ll trust me here, when I urge you to buy some bubble gum, a box of Loreal blue/black hairdye, and crank CLUB WOW‘S “Nowhere Fast” up to eleven and singalong to “Nights Are So Long” at the top of your lungs, clapping to the handclaps, flipping your bighair to the beat! This magic disc is a very real time machine that will spit you right back where we once belonged strutting around in fresh Creepers on long weekends visiting cemeteries and seeing shows and discovering Dead Boys 12 inch records at Singing Dog, or School Kids records on the avenue. “Hope I pull it off cause I’m developing a cough…” Ya know the places that we used to be really have turned to nagging memories-the band house is a tanning salon, your old pad’s a parking lot, the punk bars, the record stores, even the prized and precious scrapbooks and fliers and souvenirs I had hoped to pass on to my grandkids someday were all lost to mice in storage spaces, bed bugs purges, evictions, divorces, and midnight moves without a car. To me, the old times, the scratchy vinyl and dreaming and believing, that was it. I never understood what the squares and haves thought they were winning with the obedient fitting-in and belonging to mean spirited, hateful churches and endangering people speeding in big white trucks and watching sports. I just don’t get it, at all. Nowadays, even our friends and families, loved ones and former bandmates are all vanishing one by one with the landmarks and values and ephemera of our teenage years, and from here out, it’s just back pains, and paycheck to paycheck, Ramen again, nights of tv, suburbanization, slavery and death. At least sometimes, we still have the music to remind us of when we still felt alive and our black hearts were singing, on the road trip to somewhere beyond the hideous sports bars and malls. Brother, brother, it all zipped by in the blink of my heavily mascared eye. Now, it’s all chicken wings and draft beer and watching Bill fucking O’Reilly barking about Muslims with your dad. Still not my thing. It takes a lot of cheek to cover the Beatles, and Club Wow even do a bang up rendition of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and the whole energetic shebang ends with a live version of “Wild Ride with Vera Jane”, a tribute to Jayne Mansfield. I’ll be skipping back and forth between “Terminal Town” and “A Million Miles Away” and “Nights Are So Long” and “It’s A Lie” for the next many hours, and you should also acquire this cd promptly and even if you think I sound like a Ronco or K-Tell hard sell infomercial, “BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!”, there really IS more, as it even comes with a bonus disc of cool low budget videos and liner notes and an exquisite package so, yeah, you’ll want this thing as soon as possible. Flawless golden rocknroll perfection. The sound of youth. Buy it now! Thank me whenever.