Get Ready to Get Down . . .
Over the past few years, a loud buzz has emanated from the New York club scene centering around four upstarts committed to incessant gigging and high-energy rock and roll. These musical ruffians are better known as the Mooney Suzuki, and with the major label release of Electric Sweat, New York’s best kept secret is set to be unleashed on the rest of the planet.
Originally issued by indie Gammon Records in 2002, Electric Sweat is currently available under the Columbia masthead, proving that every now and again majors get it right. The 10 included tracks capture the essence of the Mooney’s distinctive sound and frenetic delivery, and provide evidence as to the scope of the band’s musical influences. Often praised (or derided) as being an incarnation of early Who, the Mooney Suzuki is far more than a poor man’s version of Pete Townshend and Company. In actuality, the group has successfully culled from a variety of sonic sources, cutting and pasting to form a unique blend of bar band rawness, live aggression, and sophisticated studio polish.
The album’s opening two songs pay homage to the mighty MC5, with fiery dueling guitars underscored by warp speed bass and drum assaults. The title track bears an uncanny likeness to the 5’s “Head Sounds (Part Two)” from the Power Trip album, while the single “In a Young Man’s Mind” unapologetically appropriates the bass line from “Kick out the Jams.” A third tune, “Electrocuted Blues” is a high velocity instrumental feedback fest straight from the Brother Wayne Kramer/Fred “Sonic” Smith glossary of fret board jousting. These aural similarities may incite critics to mass in the streets and scream “Rip off artists!”, but the Mooneys are merely practicing the time honored tradition of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery.
Putting MC5 comparisons aside, Electric Sweat is a legitimate testament to the Mooney Suzuki’s musical dexterity. The songs “A Little Bit Of Love”, “It’s Not Easy”, and “Natural Fact” channel the spirit of ‘80s garage band extraordinaire the Long Ryders with deft blends of wailing guitars, bluesy vocals and slick songwriting. “It’s Showtime Pt. II” is an organ drenched house jam reminiscent of vintage Steve Winwood/Traffic and Sly Stone, and the album’s high point, “I Woke Up This Morning”, is rock and roll revival meeting at its finest.
While the majority of Electric Sweat consists of pure adrenaline and horsepower, there are two noteworthy deviations. The track “Oh Sweet Suzanna” is singer/song writer Sammy James Jr.‘s lone attempt at folksy balladry. Falling short of its mark, and conspicuously out of place with the album’s prevailing supercharged tempo, the song is essentially a throwaway tune. Conversely, the smoldering blues of “The Broken Heart” serves as an interesting contrast to Electric Sweat‘s torrid pace. It also marks another example of the Mooney Suzuki’s diverse pool of influences as the track is a dead ringer for Creation’s brilliant cover of the Otis Redding song “That’s How Strong My Love Is”.
Ironically, the importance of the MC5, Long Ryders, and Creation to Mooney Suzuki’s existence may prove to be a burden as well as a blessing. Although those bands were immensely talented and known for their electrifying stage performances, widespread commercial success eluded each of them throughout their careers. The $64,000 question then is, “Can the Mooneys avoid a similar fate?” Based on the merits of Electric Sweat, the answer is leaning toward a resounding “yes”.
Overall, the album sticks to a rather basic plan; equal parts punk sensibility and roots based rock, mixed with solid musicianship and amps cranked way up. Additionally, the Mooney Suzuki is one of a handful of new bands whose sound translates flawlessly from studio to stage and back. Couple this musical consistency with the band’s “road dog” touring schedule and some major label promotional muscle, and we may just have a certified winner on our hands. The Mooneys are still far from laying claim to the title of “The Only Band That Matters”, but they’re headed in the right direction. As the album’s title track proudly proclaims, “Get ready, get set, what you get is Electric Sweat!”