Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Satelliters - Hashish Review

The Satelliters

A grass roots rock and roll movement began decades ago and while a few acts from this scene have managed to hit commercial pay dirt, most either labor in relative obscurity or they at least gain a level of cult acceptance – brilliant semi-toxic mushrooms littering the generally banal musical forest floor. The Satelitters have been plying this particular trade for over ten years and they’ve grown to be a fairly good sized spore in the carcass of rock. What in the hell am I talking about? Well, take a deep breath – count five and hit a garage. It’s all about garage punk for the German boys in The Satelitters whose sound has evolved since they began bashing out well known cover songs back in 1993. Their lo-fi transistor has been traded in for hi-fi stereo and their original songs outshine the covers on their new disc Hashish, their fifth release for Dionysus Records.

Opening track “Go Away” is so prototypical and primitive it makes you wonder how cavemen could make such noise without electricity. Above standard fuzz guitar and wailing harmonica elaborate on the lyrics of a lover scorned, the vocals are spat out with snotty abandon. It’s all so deceptively simple, but there is a depth and analog connection with the past coalescing toward the future perfection of the guitar, bass, drums, organ, and harmonica format. The Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction” was the powder keg lit by The Yardbirds “Train Kept A-Rollin” and when that mother blew there was a band in every town – hell even John Kerry played bass for The Electras. Compilations like the Back From The Grave series and Pebbles have scratched the surface of trashed out garage mayhem, while Nuggets assembled the commercial one hit wonders, but there are mushroom spores everywhere and The Satelliters are standouts.

“Sweet Sensation” is relentless with fuzz guitar gone full spectrum Sixties freak out with some slivers of wah-wah pedal during the solo. There are hints of progression lurking on the epic “The First Rays Of Light” – Hammond organ and as modern a guitar sound as one gets with The Satelitters; the introductory chords straight out of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” – and lucky for us listeners it works subverting my general rule that progression means danger Will Robinson. The Satelliters don’t stray too far from the cave with the dystopic dinosaur bone rattling “Stoneage Man” with its insistent primordial beat. The only clunker found is the cover of the Small Faces “Wam Bam Thank You Mam” – while lead vocalist Steve of The Satelliters has a Jagger swagger he can’t get on the same planet with Steve Marriott.

Garage punk fans take note; Dionysus Records has another winner to add to their stellar catalog. This Hashish can’t be smoked, but it’s still a big high, especially if you’re just discovering the joys of primeval stomp and roll. One word of warning: your Beatles obsessive friends might look down on your ear lust for this sort of music. It just kills them to know that The Yardbirds actually have had a greater impact on rock and roll.

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