Remember when acts like the Stooges and Ramones could invade a studio and record an album in a matter of days? It was all about keeping things simple while harnessing the primitive sound of their music. Unfortunately, that minimalist technique has been forgotten, as many bands become hypnotized by the allure of the mixing board and related production accoutrements, with recording times stretching into months and beyond. Anyone heard from Axl Rose lately? Oh, I forgot . . . he’s still hunkered down and working diligently on Chinese Democracy.
This is the reason the Bamboo Kids’ arrival is so refreshing. There’s nothing fancy about this trio of New York gutter-snipes, they simply show up and play, kicking a sizable amount of ass in the process. The band’s inaugural full-length effort is a gem of sonic simplicity, eleven tracks of raw energy infused with sufficient hooks and attitude to appease most listeners. Is it a model of studio perfection? Absolutely not, which is precisely why the album is so authentic, and so satisfying . . .
Opening with a flourish, the appropriately titled “Caught in New York City” introduces Dwight Weeks’ ragged vocals and equally ragged guitar work. Weeks sings as if suffering from some unseen physical or emotional pain, searing his lyrics with just the right amount of angst so as not to sound gratuitously pissed. The fast pace continues with the catchy “She Got Off”, then segues into “Continuous Go-Go”, which hangs on Weeks’ angry, repetitive riffing. Without a hint of finesse, the band motors through the first quarter of the album kicking up sparks and dust as they go. It’s fast and moderately furious, and quite enjoyable in an I like living dangerously manner.
Not content to simply crash and burn their way through the record, the Kids showcase their pedigree with the next two tracks, as the jaunty “Suck the Life Out of Me” and “Marked Man” bear obvious hints to early Clash; is that a young Mick Jones singing the chorus on the latter? Hmmm . . . Could be . . .
The album continues on its course by ratcheting up the rage level with “Right On”, as Weeks evokes images of an angry muse morphed with a street brawler. His vocals are punctuated by Chris Orlando’s strafing drum beats; his rapid fire fills adding sharpness to each spat-out word. Somewhere in the Midwest, Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson is smiling, as Orlando has obviously listened to a few MC5 songs in the practice room.
The next four songs provide an uneasy balance, as they alternate between frenetic fun and slow burn. While “Nothing to Do” and “Inside of You” barrel along with abandon, the smoldering “Good Boy” and “Don’t Get Better” allow Vince Cecio to flex his muscle by laying down some plodding bass lines. The songs’ tempo changes are jarring, but feel perfectly suited for this record. We’re in the van with the Kids, speeding around corners, lurching out of control at times, then screeching to a momentary halt to catch our breaths.
And after a wild thirty-plus minute ride, what would be the perfect way to close the album? With a high octane thrash fest, of course . . . which is exactly what “No Sympathy” is. Weeks is at his sneering best, as Orlando and Cecio help him stamp The Bamboo Kids with an appropriate exclamation point as the final chords fade out.
So simple . . . so easy . . . and so good . . .