Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Hydromatics' "The Earth Is Shaking"

I’ve got a whole shelf of Scott Morgan records at home: the Rationals album from 1970 (in both vinyl and bootleg Italian CD versions); the Sonic’s Rendezvous Band box set; the Scott Morgan Band album on Revenge (vinyl and CD); the two Scots Pirates albums on Schoolkids; the Dodge Main album with Wayne Kramer and Deniz Tek; the Hydromatics’ Parts Unknown and Powerglide; the Rendezvous Band live “reunion” disc, career-spanning Medium Rare compilation, and live Ann Arbor Revival Meeting with Powertrane, Deniz Tek, and Ron Asheton on Real O Mind, the Solution’s soul-flavored Communicate (which was actually a hit – in Sweden); the studio Powertrane Beyond the Sound that languished so long before its release on Motor City Jams earlier this year that the drummer on the record has been out of the band for two years. (And that’s not counting all the dubbed tapes and burned CD-Rs I’ve received from buds and the man himself over the years.) Teenage garage king and blue-eyed soul brother supreme, Brother Scott’s carried the flag for high energy Detroit rock ‘n’ roll longer and truer than anybody else. The fact that there’s not a lot of sonic variation between many of these records is superseded by the sad reality that most of them are now unobtainable, the labels having folded as fast as they could sell out their DIY-size pressings. Now I’ve got one more.

The Hydromatics were the brainchild of a pair of Detroit-obsessed Europeans: Entombed drummer/Hellacopters singer-guitarist Nick Royale and 6’4” Dutch punk-rock pioneer (Nitwitz/BGK/Loveslug) and history buff Tony “Slug” Leeuwenburgh. Back in the ‘90s, they hatched a scheme to record some songs from the Sonic’s Rendezvous Band catalog that they’d learned from lo-fi audience tapes in the years before this stuff finally started surfacing in spiffed-up CD form eight or nine years ago. By the time they brought their plan to fruition, they’d managed to connect with and recruit Morgan, who’d shared the writing and singing duties in SRB with Fred “Sonic” Smith. The wheels came off the Hydro juggernaut following a European tour in 2003, but earlier this year they regrouped with a lineup that featured Morgan, Slug, and a new member: guitarist Kent Steedman from Australia’s Celibate Rifles, one of the most individuated and adventurous bands to draw inspiration from the Stooges’ primal fury. Previously, Steedman had contributed crucial creative spark that made Le Bonne Route the most interesting album in Radio Birdman mastermind Deniz Tek’s solo catalog, and the Antipodean’s input (as player and producer) promised to radically differentiate this new Hydros offering from, say, the Powertrane record, where the presence of longtime Mitch Ryder guitarist Robert Gillespie pulled things in a relatively more conservative direction.

The results don’t disappoint. The sound of The Earth Is Shaking is raunchy, rowdy, rough and ready, lacking the studio polish of the last Hydromatics outing, but not to the music’s detriment. Gone also are the horns that adorned the first two Hydros releases and were a key component of the Solution’s sound. This is a rock ‘n’ roll record, and more of a “band” effort than anything Morgan’s been involved with since the Dodge Main session, with several distinct songwriting voices audible (including three items that are credited to the full band), even though Scott’s the only singer. Kent’s solo composition “Speechless” has a turned-around beat that makes it sound like an outtake from the Rifles’ Blind Ear, and it flows seamlessly into a cover of the Stones’ “All Down the Line” that shows Morgan’s Exile On Main St. obsession (clearly audible in Powerglide’s “Soulbone” and “Tumblin’ Down”) is unabated. (The other cover here is “Baby Jane,” from punk-era Brit R&B revivalists Dr. Feelgood.) “Power and Glory” is a better-than-average example of the heartland Americana that Morgan first rolled out on his Rock Action album back in ’89. Scott only once dips into the SRB song bag that’s sustained him for so long, to resurrect “Mystically Yours,” a song from that band’s earliest incarnation which rocks out with a slightly faster variation on that familiar Stooges “Funhouse” groove, the three principals’ guitars sparring until the rhythm boys seem to lose the thread for a moment. The band-composed “Streets of Amsterdam” boasts some rib-thudding breaks and more dueling guitars from Slug and Steedman. The shuddering jam in the middle of “Detroit Leaning” takes the proceedings even further into the red. The Aussie and the Dutchman collaborated on “Funball,” which careens along with a cheerful abandon worthy of its name, and the surprising instrumental closer “Monumental.” Overall, I’d rank The Earth Is Shaking up there with Powerglide and Medium Rare among my most favored post-SRB Morgan outings. Cop from Scott's online store or Suburban Records.


Post a Comment

<< Home