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The Parkinsons: A Long Way to Nowhere

Jason MacNeil

The Parkinsons

A Long Way to Nowhere

Label: Elevator Music
US Release Date: 2003-05-06
UK Release Date: 2003-07-22

The "buzz" is again rearing its ugly head. The press kit reads like it's Andrew Loog Oldham and the Stones are not a band but a way of life: "If a bullet were to try and stop this band, it would find its casing being ripped off and scattered over the top of a ruined Les Paul guitar". The Parkinsons' core trio of Victor Torpedo, Pedro Xau, and Alfonse Zheimer performed in a few bands in the mecca of all rock and roll: Coimbra, Portugal. After making some waves in Britain and the U.S. as the Tedio Boys, the group disbanded and have now reformed. This album is produced by Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain, a man not exactly prone to producing everyone who asks. Festival slots in Reading, Glastonbury and Japan's Fuji Rock Festival have only led to more praise. But is it worth it?

At nine songs and 27 minutes, the group begins with a slight warm-up riff that would have Chuck Berry smiling. Appropriately titled "Primitive", this band is full steam ahead with a style taking the Yardbyrds, circa "Train Kept a Rollin'", with a bit of the Big Bopper and more '60s garage rock. "Somebody had to guess my name", Zheimer sings before the guitars kick in for a brief but electrifying solo. It's oh so tight, like the Mooney Suzuki, or, to a lesser extent, the Hives. The drumming of Chris Low only helps solidify the lineup. And at two minutes, the group has set a very high bar to at least meet for the next 25 minutes. "Too Many Shut Ups" starts where the last song left off, but with Zheimer adding a snarling Johnny Rotten style to the track. It's basically a '70s Ramones punk track that doesn't have the same chutzpah as the opener. Some of the solos are top notch, but there isn't much to get overly excited about.

"Angel in the Universe" has blistering guitars and should please most fans of the Stooges, MC5, and the New York Dolls. Pedro Xau's bass line is constantly the base for this track before it ends far too soon at ninety seconds. "Universe" resembles a garage sound at its polished best. The vocals are mired in the mix while Victor Torpedo sinks his teeth and guitar into this brooding yet appealing wall of noise. Each song is relentless in showing the listener that this is CBGB's and this is 1975. "I don't know what's wrong / Life's such a joke", Zheimer sings again with a Rotten approach. But thankfully he tones it down a notch or two. "Hate Machine" is the first track where you find yourself wondering what has possessed your bottom to gyrate such as it is. This is pure, blissful scum and the Parkinsons wouldn't want it any other way. Proving that the old-school punk packs a greater punch than most of today's best, the quartet are simply on for the song, making it the best two minutes thus far.

"Nothing to Lose" is probably the one track that leaves the listener shaking their heads. The band really doesn't know what to do with the track and thus sway from an urgent punk guitar riff to a far more melodic and safe bit of quasi-surf guitar. It doesn't work though, which is a bit disappointing. There's something there, it's just that they didn't get it on this valiant attempt. "Scientists" contains that same primal urge the Strokes nailed on its debut, but the urgency far outweighs the tension on this track. Zheimer again sounds like somebody urinated in his cereal and, for today at least, he's none too pleased about it. The middle solo section is Torpedo's single greatest feat on this album -- an adorable piece of musicianship that you'll find yourself repeating before it fully ends. It should be the closing track, but isn't. It resembles four people collectively enjoying their simultaneous nervous breakdowns for nearly six minutes.

"Pill", which is live from the Tune Inn, is defined by the band as "the last song, motherf--ker!" And while the sound is a bit too distant and weak, the energy is obvious. It's too bad the recording is so, well, crappy. The bass and guitar sound far too removed from the sound, while Zheimer's vocals are the only thing that sounds lively. Regardless, the Parkinsons are intent on making you forget the competition. If this is their idea of a long way to nowhere, they're sadly mistaken.

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