Jeff Conolly was a fiery part of the Boston garage rock scene in the late ‘70s. He first fronted DMZ, a thrashing rock band that distinguished itself with a bluesy undercurrent and a punk edge. When that band fell apart in 1978, he formed Lyres, an equally charging band that shifted the focus from crunching guitars to bleating organs. Both sides of Conolly’s musical world are represented here.
We get the Radio Demos from DMZ, recorded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1976. It’s a scrappy chunk of early recordings, Conolly shrieking away while the band speeds wildly through each song. What makes DMZ interesting, though, is that there’s a sort of innocence to the sound. Even when Conolly sings of dance-floor brawls or backseat rolling around with a girl, this all boils down to the childlike zeal rock and roll brings out of the band. It’s fitting that we get a version of the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” and the Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over” in this set. This isn’t about tearing down tradition, it’s about picking up the right one, which is true rock and roll, and honoring it with all the spit and fury you’ve got.
Lyres pulls the same trick, but Conolly and crew (including DMZ guitarist Peter Greenberg) tighten up the ramshackle rock into something poppier but still volatile. Conolly still yells over these songs, but the band’s set is solid, if a bit one-dimensional. The trouble with DMZ and Lyres is that neither necessarily scratches a new itch—this may send you running for your copy of Fun House—but there’s heart to these songs and plenty of solid rock and roll to be found on this generous release.