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Teenage Suicide (Gulcher Records) $10
Thundertrain was a struttin', hard-rockin' band that came out of the mid-70s Boston scene that also included Willie Loco Alexander, DMZ, the Real Kids, Third Rail, Ready Teddy, and many others. A year after the band got together, they released their first single, "I'm So Excited"/"Cindy Is A Sleeper," in 1975. Although this was becoming more and more common for the neo-punk underground that was on the rise, the kind of hard-drivin' cock-rockin' sound Thundertrain produced was usually diluted for major-label consumption. But these New England boys opted for a more direct attack than their peers, casually merging bottom-heavy rippin' hard-rock with teen-pop sensibilities and occasional slide-guitar bursts that sounded like prime Johnny Winter. In fact, at the heart of Thundertrain are the same sort of blues riffs that defined rock'n'roll in the first place. Not many hard-rockers in 1975 claimed Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Remains, and the New York Dolls as prime influences.
In 1976, with Willie Alexander sitting in on piano, they released a killer single called "Hot For Teacher!", beating Van Halen to the punch by many years. In '77, with the punk-rock revolution in full swing, they released an LP called Teenage Suicide. It was a great album, recorded live in the studio, but there was no way post-Sex Pistols punk-rockers would embrace something so hairy and full of cut-throat blues licks. Like so many bands before and after, what made them special was also what placed them outside of their own pop time. A few years earlier, they would've fit nicely beside other Boston bands like J. Geils and Aerosmith; and in the 1980s, they would've been the best "hair band" on the planet!
Besides "Hot For Teacher!", the Teenage Suicide LP included eight other gems. "Hell Tonight," "Cheater," "Love The Way (You Love Me)," and "I Gotta Rock" are near-perfect 70s rockers--cut from the same gawdy cloth as Slade, T. Rex, Alice Cooper, Brownsville Station, and other pre-punk rabble-rousers. "Frustration" shows their 60s garage roots, with slashing "Louie Louie" chords. "Modern Girls" and "Forever And Ever" come close to garage-influenced pop in the Real Kids style, but with hard-rock swagger and big crunch added to the formula.
Gulcher Records has now made Teenage Suicide available on CD, along with the "I'm So Excited"/"Cindy Is A Sleeper" single, Thundertrain's two songs from Live At The Rat (a double-LP comp recorded at the legendary Boston club), an unreleased studio track, and a radio interview. The disc comes packaged with a 24-page booklet that includes lots of photos, the Thundertrain story as told by frontman Mach Bell, and interviews with the other band members Steven Silva, Ric Provost, Gene Provost, and Bobby Edwards.
To my ears, Thundertrain sounds even better now than they did a generation ago--no fashion show or aesthetic theory to detract from the uninhibited raw rockin'. This should be a mighty sweet listen for unrepentant rockers who choke at the putrid corpse that's usually presented as rock'n'roll in the 21st century. Take off your thinking cap and put on some stompin' shoes--this is the real shit, boys and girls.
Hell Tonite! (Gulcher Records) $10
Live at the Summit Club in Peabody, Mass. on February 1, 1979. With versions of "Hell Tonite," "Love the Way," "Forever & Ever," "I Gotta Rock," "Cheater," and "Hot for Teacher" from their '77 TEENAGE SUICIDE album; previously unheard originals "Afterschool," "Readin'Riotin'Rock'n'Roll," "Counterattack," "Got Past You," and "Anything Money Can Buy"; covers of "Dirty Water" (The Standells) and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now" (Slade). Liner notes by singer Mach Bell.
12 CENT DONKEY
Where There Are No Roads (Gulcher Records) $10
Hoverin' low over the imaginary bayous of New England, 12 Cent Donkey's ambient boogie twists and turns, flows and moans, gets back and jumps ahead. 12 Cent Donkey is the duo of Steve Painter (guitars & effects) and Rick Breault (guitars & effects, tape manipulation, Ebow, electronic instruments & effects, bass, drums). These good ol' boys come from Massachusetts. Their first release was a CDR called No Cash Value (Slippy Town, 2004). This is their second thang. Dig it before they dig your grave. This is what I heard through the swelter of Valley heat and the fuzz of too much lager. . . . (1) "Where There Are No Roads" (title track): Birdies singin', guitars whirrin' and whinin', drum click-clackin', or is a train rollin' 'cross the tracks? No matter, the sounds all merge--no separation possible--yet we are all still doomed. (2) "Submerge": Slow burnin', guitar churnin', cranky chankin', lift-offin' surges of hard-pillow outside-in. The blues according to nobody but Donkey. But is that the ghost of Robert Pete Williams rockin' in his grandma's chair? Somebody just fell off the back porch. Again. (3) "Under the Bridge" (over the rainbow?): Crickets are chirpin'. Again. Guitar starts with a bit o' old-timey pickin' but quickly gives way to out-o'-timey drone and very swollen noisy clankin'. A vision of Desmond Dekker hoppin' off a freight train. Not that this is remotely reggae--but the roots are real deep--like the roots of an overgrown tree slowly rippin' up your floorboards. Mumblin' background, rumblin' foreground, tumblin' dice. Guitar soundin' like a busted harpsichord--baroque down in Clarksdale--call Johnny Lee, see if he can give us a ride to town. (4) "Swamp Shivers": Some peckerwood done slipped dowers into CCR's water cooler. The rhythm section nodded real quick, and yep, there goes J. Fogerty. Brother Tom gives Loren Mazzacane a call--CCR takes a whole new direction. And yeah, I still remember them groundhogs barkin'. Again. Boogie on. Tell Lightnin' Slim the news. (5) "To 7 Directions" (at least): Vocals on this one. Like singin'. Yeah, it's closer than anything else here to a "song." Well yeah, it is a song. Real nice guitar interplay--"primitive" but crystal clear even with wind blowin' sweetly against the microphone. Pack my grip, mama, I'm movin' to the country in the city in the sky. Keep on, honey, keep on--ain't nothin' to livin' but dyin'. Have another sip, pardner. End of (this) story.