Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Gizmos “Go to Purdue: Live 1979," Tim Carroll “Opening Up”

(Gulcher) The Gizmos album was recorded live in 1979, West Lafayette, Indiana (home of the Boilermakers). Being the Christmas season the Hoosier punk pioneers kick into a surf instrumental of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” then proceed with  a set of just melodic enuff punk for the assembled punters at a house party (yes, my young friend, you didn’t invent punk rock house parties. I went to my first a year after this one…in diapers, of course…and I wasn’t a baby!). It’s actually recorded to four-track, but there’s surface noise, feedback and stuff that can’t be avoided in a real live field recording, like solitary “woo girl,” and some in yer face rock ‘n’ roll with immediacy and Indianacy. It all gels, technical snafus notwithstanding, by the time the band gets to the sorta rockabilly-punk furor of “Johnny’s Got a Gun” (no relation to the Dead Moon song…which makes sense), after which they ask for donations in the hat (that’s a real house party!). “Jog” carries on carrying the inspiration, not the imitation, of the Ramones, whom they’d just opened for. “Melinda is a Lesbian” is a solid Buddy Holly by way of Bo Diddley rocker. The band had influences, obviously, but didn’t wear them on their sleeves -- the original Gizmos were more into the Dictators and the MC5 and probably did “You’re Gonna Miss Me” before Radio Birdman ever took it on. This CD is about a turning point – by ’79-’81 punk was largely morphing into new wave, power pop and hardcore. The Gizmos changed over the years, but their sharp punk attack stayed intact. They did not become Granddaddies of pop Punk, but they did make it out of the 70s, propelled by solid riffs, fluid bass lines, and a catchy beat to make the whole thing work, and a snotty, reedy vocal sound that was also the order of the day. Nearly every region had at least one band that fit this description, but the Gizmos changed what they wanted to and kept what they had: an edgy rockin’ punk sound that was fun before the moshpit tried to pummel out punk rock’s fun-ness. Indiana had to be a really rough place to be in a band in the 70s and early 80s, but the Gizmos performed an invaluable service and, sounds to me, like they got their kicks along the way. As the show winds up, with the junk food aesthetic of the band taking them to 7-11 with “Rockin’ for Tacos” and “Hot Burrito #2,” it leaves the listener with the lingering taste of Beavis and Butthead living in the 70s (but with decent taste in music…and not being so fucking dumb). About 100 years later we get a very different live album from a Gizmo. After his Gizmos days Tim Carroll, as we learn between songs on this ridiculously charming album, fell under the spell of the rootsy post-punkers Rank and File and eventually became less of a rocker and more of a bonafide songwriter. This album has Carroll, as the opening act for a friend in an intimate venue, playing his best rockin’ country-ish cuts from the past 30 years, just him and his electric guitar. An earnest ode to Hank, a bouncy fishing fantasy, a tale of seducing an anti-country gal, a salute to a pro-country punk rock gal, a heartbreaker about a hurricane, and a funnybone tickler about a guitar slingin’ grampa are some of the highlights. While the album title is clever (because he’s the opening act, get it?) Carroll doesn’t exactly achieve its implied double meaning, as his relaxed, friendly banter between songs isn’t about letting the feelings in his innards out, but rather about recounting (to a receptive, smart audience) the hills, valleys, and small satisfactions of a marginal, but often satisfying musical life. He recalls his history of having one tune covered quite a bit, watching a Hollywood movie, in which he’d placed a song on the soundtrack, all the way through without hearing a note of his only to be relieved when it underscored the closing credits, and relates his mantra about letting go of youth, but not rock ‘n’ roll cool. There are a million reasons to love the Gizmos (we all should have love for the brave, silly kids who spent the seventies saving rock n roll) but what’s great about this recording is that it gives you a dozen reasons to genuinely like Tim Carroll.


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