Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Nervebreakers' "Hijack the Radio! (Vintage Vinyl & Studio Sessions, Volume One)" (Part Two)

OK, It's been a couple of months since our last installment, but now it's here. The CD comes with three extra tracks -- a '75 slice of Syd-influenced psychedelia called "See Me Thru," a take of the Troggs' "Strange Movies" that predates the one recorded for We Want Everything, and the original cassette-recorded demo of "Hijack the Radio!" -- but I had to spring for the limited-edition colored vinyl versh, because that's the way we roll.

The new compilation explodes out of the gate with the title track, a fan's anthem from the days when rockaroll radio was the medium that bound us all together (or pissed some of us off). Primary writing partners Tex Edwards and Mike Haskins got their first exposure to the esoterica that formed their aesthetic from a Dallas AM station that would play anything...once. The notion of letting some "DJ guy" program your listening experience might seem quaint in this era when every man is his own radio station, but the NBs put their point across powerfully, with a bridge that paraphrases the Kinks' "Top of the Pops" and every rockfan's favorite object of ridicule back in '79: disco.

The smiling folks at Get Hip were wise to focus their selection on 'riginals (with the exception of the Troggs cover on the CD), for the Nervebreakers' defining strength was their songwriting -- although they played more than their share of covers, coming as they did from an era (a band since '73, they) when you had to play four sets a night. (The compilers saw fit to include a shaky example of their early forays into songwriting -- the instrumental "Missa Moses," which dates from '75, when Walter Brock was still playing Farfisa.)

Their lengthy gestation meant that by the time these sides were waxed, they really knew their way around their axes -- not a prerequisite for punk rock apotheosis, but it meant that they had the means at their disposal to make their humor-infused stew of Brit Invasion, rockabilly, and psych influences sound convincing. To hear what I'm talking about, give "Why Am I So Flipped?" a spin. (Imagine if the Clash's Sandy Pearlman-produced confluence of punk aesthetics with Big Rock sonics on Give 'Em Enough Rope had actually gelled.)

Their best-known song was "My Girlfriend Is a Rock," a Bay Area hit penned by drummer Carl Giesecke and subsequently covered (as "My Girlfriend's In Iraq") by doomed Millennial punkers Spector 45. The toon taps the same vein of early '60s pop, overlaid with buzzsaw guitars, that the New York Dolls and Ramones mined. (Indeed, "It's Too Late" wouldn't have sounded out of place on Too Much Too Soon.) Haskins was a guitar-slinger in the fire-breathing, yet craftsmanlike mold of BOC's Buck Dharma and the Dictators' Ross the Boss. He constructed his solos with care, adding details like the little snippet of feedback that concludes his first "Girlfriend" solo, or his crazy glisses on "I Love Your Neurosis," that injected just the right amount of chaos to the proceedings.

Tex Edwards was a charismatic frontman who absorbed C&W influences by osmosis, not inclination. He channels Ray Davies at his rockin'-est on "Everything Right" and most effete on "My Life Is Ruined," while sounding for all the world like, um, Arnold Schwarznegger on the closing epic "Beyond the Borderline." The band's secret weapon was Barry Kooda, the guy with the fish in his mouth in the famous Rolling Stone pic from the Sex Pistols show, who churned up the requisite racket on low-slung Les Paul while providing quality backing voxxx and occasional tuneage (on his own or in tandem with Edwards); he sings lead on "So Sorry" here.

Hijack the Radio! nicely compliments (and isn't at all redundant with) their '81 swan song LP We Want Everything! (which Get Hip reissued on sweet, sweet vinyl last year). Hopefully the kids will scarf up enough copies to make the Pittsburgh-based label release the NBs' 2007 Face Up To Reality album -- which, if heard, could give a good name to reunion albums by superannuated punkers.


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