Heartbreakers – L.A.M.F. (1977)

Heartbreakers_LAMF4 out of 5 Stars!

Featuring both guitarist Johnny Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan from New York Dolls, along with bassist Billy Rath and guitarist Walter Lure, Heartbreakers (also known as Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers) released only one album, but what a killer platter it was.

Punchy and energetic tracks such as “I Wanna Be Loved,” “Baby Talk,” “Do You Love Me,” “Goin’ Steady,” “Chinese Rocks,” and the blazing opener “Born to Lose” barrel from the speakers “Like A M*ther F*cker,” hence the album’s abbreviated title. Similar to Sex Pistols, the guitars sound frenzied and full on the majority of the fourteen tunes, yet almost like New York Dolls, also wonderfully sloppy and slovenly. And the always defiant and typically off-key lead vocals match the fury of both aforementioned groups, which gives the down-‘n’-dirty music extra debauched charm and garage-band character.

Therefore, crammed with both punkish attitude and youthful exuberance, a cacophony of pounding rhythms and singalong choruses, the band had enough snarl and swagger to give the mighty Sex Pistols a run for the sleazy moolah. But alas, also like the Pistols, narcotics and personal mayhem took a toll on the band members, and Heartbreakers splintered apart after releasing this one full-length studio album, which ended up being a classic of the genre, and a ferocious, disobedient, and long-lasting sockdolager to the musical jaw.

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Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)

SexPistols_Bollocks5 out of 5 Stars!

Say what you will about this short-lived and controversial band, either adore it or detest it, but Sex Pistols sure left a deep, nasty, and indelible mark on the music industry and pop culture after blasting out this one album, ruthlessly assaulting the public with its rude and raw sound and creating a masterpiece in the process.

On aggressive, ear-splitting, and occasionally expletive-laden tracks such as “Holidays in the Sun,” “Problems,” “Liar,” “Pretty Vacant,” “E.M.I,” “Submission,” and the ferocious “Bodies,” the guitars are sinfully mammoth, the rhythms wickedly thundering, and the vocals disgustingly rotten yet sarcastically brilliant. I vividly recall having a friend play for me a homemade cassette tape of the album’s most famous tracks he’d caught on the radio, “God Save the Queen” and “Anarchy in the UK” (along with a non-album tune “Did You No Wrong,” which, thankfully, was included as a “bonus track” on later editions of the album), and itched to hear them numerous times in quick succession, unbelieving the ruthless heavy sound, which simply blew me away. Many folks considered frontman Johnny Rotten the star of the band, but to me, it was the little-known Chris Thomas who truly shone with the light of a thousand suns, his production work being absolutely brilliant.

Now, whether or not all the band members could actually play their instruments with any true skill or sober conviction, Sex Pistols will always be to Punk Rock what the Bee Gees will always be to Disco, the indisputable leaders of an often annoying, even repulsive genre and trend that surprisingly turned the musical world completely topsy-turvy. The band was indeed in a league of its own, with no other Punk Rock band having a fraction of the same filthy power, the same rebellious swagger, the same nerve-rattling fury as this album provided, and even to this very day, I love hearing this collection of tunes bloody-f*cking loud!

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The Stooges – Fun House (1970)

Stooges_FunHouse4 out of 5 Stars!

1970’s Fun House is unquestionably a true classic for anyone interested in the earliest days of American Punk Rock (or Proto-Punk). And as often occurs with many “classics” in the rock world, when this album was originally released back in 1970, it sold poorly. It wasn’t until many years later that the material on this album gained recognition, especially once numerous artists started naming this release as a “chief inspiration” when it came to their own approach to music. Be that as it may, The Stooges, during the band’s actual existence in the early ’70s, never got the plaudits or sales it deserved, yet the material the group created would go on to instigate an entire future genre/movement and gain attention long after it dropped. In fact, I didn’t learn of The Stooges until at least a full decade after the band broke up (not counting future “reunions”), but when I did eventually investigate the group’s back catalogue, I was floored.

On Fun House, the band’s second studio album, Iggy Pop and his cohorts in rocking, riotous, and legendary crime deliver a somewhat-flawed yet nevertheless-commendable example of rude, raw, and rebellious “garage band” music guaranteed to drive the prudish, repressed, Bible-thumping neighbors absolutely freaking ape-sh*t crazy if played too loud.

The sizzling album opens with “Down on the Street,” one of my favorite tracks in The Stooges’s entire catalogue, followed by “Loose,” “T.V. Eye” and “Dirt,” all making for a killer “A” side, while the trashy, jamming, sax-accented title track sandwiched in the middle of the “B” side is worth the price of the album alone. Talk about a punk attitude and under-recognized musical genius!

Yes, those annoying neighbors I mentioned above will hate this particular Fun House with a passion, and probably hate you even more for daring to play it, therefore, at every single opportunity…PLAY IT F***ING LOUD AND WATCH THEIR HEADS EXPLODE!!!

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Hanoi Rocks – Back to Mystery City (1983)

HanoiRocks_MysteryCity4 out of 5 Stars!

Hanoi Rocks’s fourth studio album finally earned the Finnish band some much needed worldwide recognition, thanks to not only a collection of powerful and memorable tracks, but also the production magic from the team of Mott The Hoople alumni Overend Watts and Dale “Buffin” Griffin, who aided the band in perfecting its rather unique mix of glammy, trashy, and punky styles.

Moreover, the album even included Hoople’s Morgan Fisher as guest keyboardist, his piano tinkling away in the background on several tracks, which lent an almost Mott party atmosphere to the band’s New York Dolls form of sassy rebelliousness, so things were looking and sounding quite impressive, a giant step forward from the band’s previous albums where the production had often lacked and the tinsel had been missing.

As to the material, the songwriting had also taken a major uphill leap, with the band recording one of its most consistent sets and the musicians (vocalist Mike Monroe, guitarists Andy McCoy and Jan “Nasty Suicide” Stenfors, bassist Sam Yaffa, and drummer Razzle) performing their rockin’ and rollin’ hearts out. Indeed, Back to Mystery City includes some of the group’s catchiest material (and some future concert favorites), including “Malibu Beach Nightmare,” “Mental Beat,” “Sailing Down the Tears,” “Ice Cream Summer,” “Tooting Bec Wreck,” “Until I Get You,” and the fantastic title track that closes out the collection.

Now, with the blueprint for world domination being set into motion with this splendid platter, it was only the group’s following release, Two Steps From The Move, that would surpass the impact of this album and bring Hanoi Rocks to the very brink of hard-fought success and…

Damn it, senseless tragedy struck in the form of Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, who completely destroyed the band’s escalating momentum with his fatal drunk driving escapades.

So to those unfamiliar with this team of Finnish punky glamsters, Back to Mystery City would make a great starting point when delving into the band’s catalogue of material.

And to drummer Razzle…RIP.

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Neurotic Outsiders – Neurotic Outsiders (1996)

neuroticoutsiders_14 out of 5 Stars!

When I learned in 1995 that Steve Jones (Sex Pistols/Chequered Past), Duff McKagan (Guns ‘N’ Roses), and Matt Sorum (The Cult/Guns ‘N’ Roses) had formed a new “supergroup” with John Taylor (Duran Duran/The Power Station), I had high expectations, even though I was mostly unfamiliar with John Taylor, and never a fan of either of his groups. Since I was a fan of the other musicians and their bands, however, those high expectations remained, and for the most part, the band’s debut album did not disappoint.

Loaded with loud, driving, and rebellious Hard Rock liberally crossing into Punk territory, yet with some lighter, melodic ingredients that actually reminded me of David Bowie’s Ziggy-era material (more on that later), the album simply slams nearly as thunderously as the Sex Pistols’ lone album—just listen to the single “Jerk” and you’ll see what I mean. Other Pistols-like tracks such as “Always Wrong,” “Nasty Ho,” “Good News,” “Six Feet Under,” and “Revolution” also barrel through the speakers with as much Punk nastiness as could be expected from a line-up featuring Steve Jones. The only difference from the Sex Pistols is that the vocals on this album (not the best, but at least passable) are actually “sung” and not “spat” in the tradition of the legendary Johnny Rotten (who is, by the way, actually mentioned within the lyrics of the song “Union,” along with other Sex Pistols members, including Steve Jones himself.). I also must mention the catchy song “Angelina,” where the sing-along choruses showed an almost “poppy” side to the band and made for another decent single.

Of the lighter tracks, the Bowie influence on “Better Way” brings to mind the classic track “Rock and Roll Suicide,” not only when it comes to the chord patterns in the verses, but the lead vocals, which sound similar to Bowie’s when he sang in the lower registers. Truth be told, however, several other lighter moments of this album (specifically the tracks “Union” and “Story of My Life”) are the weakest points of this collection for me, despite the occasional Bowie influences. I much prefer the brash, head-banging tracks that make up the majority of the album, where thankfully the ghost of the Sex Pistols seems to be the chief overall component, and I typically find myself cranking the stereo to “10,” reveling in the fullness of the guitars, the rambunctious bass and drums, and the rich and well-rounded production.

Sadly, this promising group never lasted long enough to produce another full-length studio album, only a short EP (Angelina) the following year, which also features the same catchy album track mentioned above, a version of “Jerk” with “clean” lyrics, along with a trio of new tunes. Regardless, this album was a fun discovery for me and made me yearn for more.

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