nuggets – whether we’re speaking of the Lenny-Kaye-compiled double LP that arrived like a breath of fresh air in the era of MOR chart-pop and prog-rock, or the four-disc boxed expansion of same – really defies criticism, more or less. Listen to it and you’re presented with relics of a lost era; these are often highly influential relics, sonically forward-thinking, radical in many ways, not least being their anticipation of punk (or, if you for some reason hate punk, or find the term ridiculous – which is pretty much the truth, these days – think of it as unschooled music that retains a sort of unsullied charge, as raw, energetic music), etc., etc. But more than anything else, Nuggets is a journey. Not only does the collection weave together a survey of a musical underground, limning the often-surprising contours of a musical subculture that foreshadowed (to borrow a song title) the shape of things to come, but it takes us, like some epic stanza-by-stanza poem, through the neglected garages of 1960s America, chronicling a generation’s youthful passions and vicissitudes. Some of these songs are crude and willfully stupid; others are literate (well, relatively), expansive, and ambitious. Granted, we’re not talking about enduring works, here: all, for certain, were intended as relatively disposable entertainment certain to lose their individual luster in the brief era in which they existed, but they share one other thing: they’re the work of young artists who, whether they knew it or not, were changing the shape of music as we knew it. Let’s look at these songs.


DISC 1


The Electric Prunes, “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)”


The collection begins with some genre-defining raga-rock that sounds as professional and assured as many of its other tracks do harried and in the process of breakdown – listen to the wisps of backwards guitar and fuzztone that slip through the chorus, plus the precision of the phased drum rolls (which nicely compliment a huge, galloping sound) for evidence. It’s a mystery to me why the band never seemed to come up with anything quite on par with this – at least in the conventional sense, though their David Axelrod-era work is exalted among a different fanbase – despite the extremely forward-thinking nature of the tremolo that runs through their other successful (but curiously muted) single, “Get Me To The World On Time”. I found the album this single’s from at a flea market five years ago or so, but wasn’t too into it. As an aside, I should mention the cover art: two members of the band, all of whom have the stiffness of Ken dolls, are wearing what may be the tightest pants in the world. I sold it on eBay for $67 (turns out it was a rare mono copy) to some greying hippie type in Redondo Beach with the worst handwriting I have ever laid eyes upon.


The Standells, “Dirty Water”


They weren’t actually from Boston, you know, but that’s irrelevant. Wonderful tambourine and menacing vox (the singer’s mastered the art of one of my favorite garage-rock-singer techniques, the throwaway aside: “Awww, but they’re cool people!”), plus a much-imitated harmonica. This is really the kind of song that defies criticism.


The Strangeloves, “Night Time”


The presence of the piano, before some brutal, somnolent drum hits kick it into submission, bring to mind the near-incompetent white soul cover band, playing revamped-Motown dance music: who said The Make-Up aspired to anything more ambitious than this model? I’m mystified and pissed off by the presence of the out-of-time, cardboard-box drum hits that mar the song’s latter half, and this is coming from someone who saw a Moldy Peaches show last night, and liked it.


The Knickerbockers, “Lies”


I may stand alone, but I think the Beatles should’ve stuck with this sound, really. There’s not a wasted moment in this song.


The Vagrants, “Respect”


This is a nice, credible white-guys-playing-black-music cover that never stumbles into any of the traps that often await bands who have done this sort of thing (i.e. that institution, the ponderous, overdrawn-at-the-wank-bank, dig-the-realness-of-our-shit instrumental solo), but the vocalist’s attempts to imitate one Mr. Redding come off as hapless; one imagines him being self-aware of his own limitations and feeling more than a bit ill at the prospect of doing it.


Mouse, “A Public Execution”


Speaking of imitations, this amazing-that-it-exists stab at ultimate-fakebook-style pseudo-Dylanism (in cadence, tone, etc. the singer comes up short despite his cocky best efforts) is really just embarrassing. The instrumental backing’s too scratchy, and the keyboardist’s no Al Kooper (though he’s since admitted he had no idea what he was doing on “Like A Rolling Stone”; maybe the problem is that this guy knows too well what he’s doing). In my years of music listening, I have discovered that it’s an unambiguously bad sign when the song kicks itself up an octave for another verse or chorus, etc.


The Blues Project, “No Time Like The Right Time”


Unbelievably lo-fi, sure, but that makes it sound all the more thrilling and clandestine. The spaghetti-western guitar drama adds to the vaguely sinister mood – I have the feeling that someone got into a barfight right the night this was recorded – and the keyboard player’s work is the very essence of elegant simplicity, until he kind of ruins it by embarking on a pretty misguided faux-Eastern break for which the rest of the band falls silent, but, to paraphrase Mark Prindle, “if you’re going to dick around, you may as well do it in 1967.”


The Shadows Of Knight, “Oh Yeah”


Almost heading into the terrain of Elvis Costello/Tom Verlaine, the singer has an interesting, albeit extremely geeky, delivery. You get the feeling that the other members of the band are, also, more than a bit geeky, horsing around playing the blues the way Weezer’s dilettantishly approached metal, aware, all the while, of their lack of instrumental prowess (though the brief guitar solo is exciting in a raunchy, limited way like those on early punk records), but at least they’re having fun, and that infectious enthusiasm comes across well to the listener.


The Seeds, “Pushin’ Too Hard”


Minimal (perched somewhere between one chord and two), aggressive to the point of insanity, and it’s got an dizzying electric piano run to boot. The crazed-insect vocal rivals Question Mark’s.


The Barbarians, “Moulty”


Uh... no comment. This is more dismemberment-consciousness-raising PSA (or personal ad: “A girl, a real girl, one that really loves me”?!) than song. Moulty, himself, sounds, in his overeagerness, like Burt Ward with a cold. The huge Biblical-epic chorus is simply awful, but I like it.


The Remains, “Don’t Look Back”


Fierce, excellent stuff, and it’s even got a few wonderful dance breakdowns. Another easy contender for – well, at least for the duration of the time you listen to it – the greatest song of its kind in the world. This band opened for the Beatles on their last tour, but I don’t think it did much for them. As when listening to Big Star, I’m incapable of understanding why wasn’t this hugely popular.


The Magicians, “An Invitation To Cry”


A prime example of the thesis that not a great deal of thought went into the composition of these songs; the massive guitar blast is hopelessly out of place atop the waltz-time drums; another mismatched take, with an entirely different room’s echo, seems twice spliced crudely into place during the verse (or is that the chorus?). All this goes to show that Robert Pollard isn’t doing much new, only perhaps this band’s similarly unprofessional-sounding vocalist had the sense to quit while he was ahead, to cut his losses, etc.


The Castaways, “Liar, Liar”


Hopelessly corny spook-house organ abounds, but there are some wonderfully undisciplined female vocals. The unpolishedness of the song, in this case, lends it (for me) a grainy verite quality, not unlike the chilling-in-their-quotidian-nature department store and street scenes in Carnival of Souls. Oddly enough, I’d written something about how this band seemed like the forgotten sort you see on TV shows before reading in the liner notes that this group did in fact tour the


The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, “You’re Gonna Miss Me”


I always thought the Elevators’ electrified jug had a pre-techno quality to it, presenting runs of notes more appropriate to another genre of acid music entirely. Though not quite as out-there as some of their other work – which were, curiously, usually damaged ballads like “Splash 1” and “Dust” – this is still an awfully scorching statement of intent from the first self-described psychedelic band in existence. Even the harmonica frenzy that enters two-thirds of the way through, usually one of my least favorite devices in the garage-rock book, has a pushed-to-the-brink, otherworldly quality, as though preoccupied in the music’s spastic glow. What else could we expect from Roky Erikson, who shares the crown of Unequalled Rock Psychosis with Syd Barrett?


Count Five, “Psychotic Reaction”


Quite simply, you can’t fuck with this. It’s supposedly a bastardization of a Yardbirds tune (“I’m A Man”), but I think the work of Lester Bangs essentially eradicated anyone’s thoughts of Clapton et al. upon hearing this tune today. The ramshackle rhythm section is early punk at its best.


The Leaves, “Hey Joe”


Like Love’s version of the song (the first?), only with a raunchy, skewed derangement added to the vocals. The leap into sudden, frenetic pulse offered up by the bridge, followed by an all-too-brief drop back to the original rhythm guitar hook and a few moments of much more scalding lead, makes me think the song’s taking place within Joe’s harried mind, that the lead vocal’s presenting some sort of deranged argument he’s having between two facets of himself.


Michael & The Messengers, “Romeo & Juliet”


Awfully simplistic to the point of proto-bubblegum – some songs have dance breaks crowded with more elements than this one (The Remains’ track, anyone?) – but it’s still awfully effective, especially the propulsive organ chords that lead in to the chorus, then appear more prominently in the bridge, which seems to be about the only thing in the song that ever changes. Just right, I’d say, at 1:50.


The Cryan Shames, “Sugar And Spice”


This is horrifying. And not really in a good way. Nice chiming guitar and weirdly dub-ish bass (even if they seem to be playing the exact same thing), but the godawful singers – maybe this is the main reason why lots of people look upon old music with disdain? – never really shut up long enough for me to enjoy it.


The Amboy Dukes, “Baby Please Don’t Go”


A pre-handlebar-moustache-and-poacher’s-rights Nuge does his surprisingly fluid, versatile thing on the axe for a minute or so while drums gallop distantly, then things kick into top gear, with some seriously bizarre stereo separation (of the lo-fi, underwater sort that makes Portishead’s “Half Day Closing” so eerie and apocalyptic) in effect. Unfortunately, the mix is so strangely weak – all high end and low end, with not much placed in between – that it succeeds in sapping the power from the overlong jam in the middle, despite some fascinating, revved-up drums. Then a backup singer’s whine cuts through the chaos, things are brought to a slow boil, and a Morrison-esque wail brings back things to life, finally. At six minutes, it’s a mini-epic of the “Inna Gadda Da Vida” sort, for those who like a good deal of dead space included with their catharsis.


Blues Magoos, “Tobacco Road”


When you hear the a cappella harmony break early on, it’s a sure sign that this group’s aesthetic has little to do with the destitution they’re singing about, no matter how convincingly the guitar and far-out-of-tune organ (more than a touch of feedback, too, is tossed in to clue the listener in to the fact that these guys have studied their mod rock and studied it well) manage to persuade us. The Magoos could’ve been the early version of upper-middle-class crust-punks, playing at Monks-esque derangement, which this single at times seems to be doing an excellent impersonation of. Still, no matter how drunk they might have gotten in the studio, there’s something a bit too frat-boy-ish, too let-the-good-times-roll, about what’s going on here. Their shaven-domed counterparts, however, seem to be channeling something far darker. War will do that to you.


The Chocolate Watchband, “Let’s Talk About Girls”


Delirious, unrepentent lechery, or maybe the boorish male-posturing overkill that brings to mind a singer capable of such behavior, never sounded so good. I was surprised to learn that this was not the group’s actual lead vocalist but a session man added to the track without their prior knowledge: everyone who’s ever written about the band needs to stress the “Jaggeresque” nature of the vocals, and he sounds about as much as I’d imagined someone could sound like Mick Jagger. At least, that’s what I thought until I heard their real singer.


The Mojo Men, “Sit Down, I Think I Love You”


Seemingly engineered by the same demented soul who brought us “Winchester Cathedral,” given the vitiated, queasy instrumental backing and goofy processed gramophone vocals. Fucking bizarre, yet I must confess I’m a sucker for an antiquated, tinny piano. How can this be the same group that brings us the awe-inspiring rock on disc 3?


The Third Rail, “Run, Run, Run”


Jesus Christ, these are among the worst vocals I’ve ever heard in my life. A failed, and probably half-assed, attempt at Beach Boys three-part harmony doesn’t help, but the subsequent break into waltz tempo and absurd Prisoner-esque harpsichord backing and apocalyptic radio announcement (probably voiced over the studio P.A.), replete with an amusing dig at LBJ (did this predate the first Mothers album’s “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”?), redeems things. Still, the mixture of the breezy and the macabre doesn’t really work here.


Sagittarius, “My World Fell Down”


With some judicious cut-and-splicing, the introduction of this song could make a wonderful underground hip-hop track. In fact, I’m wondering if it hasn’t been used by someone of the Peanut Butter Wolf/Beatnuts ilk. The bombastic, faux-Turtles chorus, though, is something I could do entirely without. Similarly, I hate to tell these guys, but a brief drop into found-sound interlude and ultra-low-budget “Good Vibrations” choral buildup does not an epic make. That’s a nice metronome and string bit, though, and it, with the harp coda, deserves to be salvaged. For more instances of sampling artists bettering history through rewriting it, see a fair amount of David Axelrod LPs.


Nazz, “Open My Eyes”


Another track I’m previously familiar with, from the budget Rhino Nuggets CD that came out in the mid-eighties (with some more mainstream songs appended), and also one of the most transcendent: things begin with a pounding drums-and-electric-piano hook, then a sleek, razor-edged fuzz guitar slices through and things lift off with a phasing-and-confusion chorus that manages to conjure up an expansiveness that predates Daydream Nation. On many of these songs the psychedelic (which I’m guessing at the time was meant to evoke its literal meaning of “mind-expanding”) effects seem hastily added, smeared atop what were otherwise essentially straightforward tracks, but when employed on this brisk, mean song they set everything aglow: the slipstreams of guitar that radiate outward from its solo while bass and drums spin out into well-controlled, somehow melancholy, chaos; the Brit-affected, lost-in-the-cosmos vocal; the burnished gleam the minimal guitar hook takes on when it returns; all these things make it endlessly listenable.


The Premiers, “Farmer John”


Things begin with another enigmatic spoken bit, this time a fake-live introduction, which, with the in-studio whoops and handclaps, evokes the conventions of the small-label funk 45: this song’s subsequent emphasis on chanting and rhythm is something it also has in common. Saxophone and meatily-played drums – beneath which lurks a quiescent ersatz-“You Really Got Me” guitar solo – help things along nicely.


The Magic Mushrooms, “It’s-A-Happening”


The keyboards here hint at some kind of peace-and-love pop aspirations, as do the willfully ridiculous echoed my-first-acid-trip vocal breaks, but the rasp and sting offered up by the guitar speaks otherwise. This is a ridiculously rudimentary song structure, here; am I listening to a fragment of someone’s practice tape?


DISC 2


The Music Machine, “Talk Talk”


These are some seriously distraught proto-punk vocals opening up the second disc. The song’s got a wonderful, swaggering drive to it that also refuses to be fronted on. Your social life’s a dud? Mine too, buddy. I could easily hear another three minutes of this seething anger from the original black-clad mod thrashers.


The Del-Vetts, “Last Time Around”


Surging, wonderfully hectic, and far more Yardbirds-punk than you could imagine. Bonus points are awarded for a series of ludicrously forced rhymes, plus a truly unexpected full-band onslaught of savagery (all the more so for its appearance after an effective, near-delicate section). I’d expect that garage-fetishist crate-diggers hope to come across this sort of thing.


The Human Beinz, “Nobody But Me”


We’ll ignore the fact, momentarily, that the first time I heard this song was in a Long John Silver’s commerical, and that because of this, subsequently, I keep subliminally hearing a gleeful “Nobody can do... fish! Like we do! Nobody can do... chicken! Like we do!” beneath the choruses.


Kenny & the Kasuals, “Journey to Tyme”


But... Aren’t we already there? There are enough bizarre ideas for three or four different songs here, and, sadly, none of them cohere. But you have to give the band (whose name makes me wonder if they were the house entertainment for a department store) good marks for trying, and there is, after all, a fantastic rave-up that takes place in the last thirty seconds; would that Kenny, et al. Could have maintained that level of intensity throughout. The vacuum drone that occasionally puts in an appearance to hoist the guitar hooks into spatial free-float reminds me of Pinkerton-era Weezer.


The Sparkles, “No Friend Of Mine”


A stolen “Stepping Stone” riff and some wonderful, histrionic freak-out singing (“And watch me... pull my hair?!”) work beautifully together. Pained yet sublime.


The Turtles, “Outside Chance”


I was never into them, plus the De La Soul lawsuit pissed me off (let it be known: I’m the wrong person to review this). This is fairly generic, but probably better than their hits.


The Litter, “Action Woman”


More brash, meaningless TV-rock. I like it, but it seems half-written and dazed, like it’s about to fall apart at any moment. Of course, that’s a good deal of its charm, which is added to by quavery, nice-guy-gone-bad vocals and dangerously rudimentary drumming. The guitarist dominates things nicely.


The Elastik Band, “Spazz”


Apparently closer to Faust in esthetic than your standard Midwest garage rockers, this track boasts some demented rhythms, lunatic high-pitched backing vocals, harp, and demonic vocals. There’s a stinging lead guitar buried in the midst of all the carnivalesque antics the band throws at the listener, but it’s hidden for most of its duration. The already cartoonish song takes a veer into the realm of burlesque music, the guitarist plays a fascinating variation on a single note, and things collapse and put themselves back together at least three times before this breathtakingly idiotic spree comes to a close.


The Chocolate Watchband, “Sweet Young Thing”


The truly Jagger-esque incarnation of the band throws out some mocking, lecherous “Paint It Black” riffs and is fully engaged in fucking shit up within the first forty-five seconds. Cruel and sexy and ridiculous, in equal measure, this almost out-Stoneses the Stones. The shattering climax comes as a true surprise, made all the more evil. Is that a curse word I hear? Somehow, I doubt that this would’ve gotten much airplay in its day, considering that the relatively innocuous Troggs were routinely banned at the time (for more information on this, see Lester Bangs, “James Taylor Marked For Death,” which does a lot to put these songs in context).


Strawberry Alarm Clock, “Incense And Peppermints”



My parents saw this band when they were in college. They’re pretty horrible (the singing, in particular, is downright moronic), except for a few well-timed descending riffs and keyboard-noise interludes. At the time, though, this must’ve seemed pretty exuberant and relevatory, despite one of the worst fade-out gear-shifts I think I’ve heard in a long time and numerous other offenses. I wonder what my kids will think of At The Drive-In?


The Brogues, “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker”


There’s a kind of working-class desperation to the vocals, and, with it, the sense that the singer’s got some troubles besides those with his girlfriend. In fact, he sounds downright sick of life and the game of loving, but at the same time possesses a frayed vulnerability of the sort also seen on The Kinks’ “Set Me Free” (a song Ray Davies has since gone on record as saying was an absolute nightmare to write and record; maybe what I’m hearing is just the result of too many takes under the oppression of an American Shel Talmy?). This song, though, is a good deal harder-rocking – so, much less British, then – and it could just be the effectiveness of the loud-soft contrast that lends it its power. (Thirty years on, this would become another cliche, of course, but there’s something thrilling about hearing one of the past’s relatively minor-league artists arrive at the same destination as today’s [or, rather, the more recent past’s] indie-rock mainstays; it reminds one that we’ve all basically got the same keys.)


Love, “7 And 7 Is”


One of the few songs I’m familiar with outside the context of the garage-rock comp, it’s thusly a bit more difficult for me to get an isolated critical reading of it down, besides the fact I’ve read so much about it, and the band, already. I will say, though, that the steadily hyperactive drumming (recorded, after some fifty unsuccessful takes, by the group’s leader, Arthur Lee, since incarcerated and paid tribute by The Make-Up) is just as fantastic as you may have heard, and that there’s something perversely admirable about ending your record with a sound-library atomic explosion and subsequent jazzy cool-down section.


The Outsiders, “Time Won’t Let Me”


Oldies radio and The Wonder Years have ruined this for me, I’m afraid.


The Squires, “Going All The Way”


Not half as neurotic and monomaniacal as it should be. Maybe these guys had all already gotten laid by the time this was recorded, which would account for its curiously muted feel.


The Shadows Of Knight, “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”


The band comes off as more than a trifle psychotic this time around. This is, I feel, a wise move on their behalf.


Kim Fowley, “The Trip”


I was previously unaware of Rip Taylor’s music career. I kid, but the demented foppery of this vocal seems straight out of, if not, The $1.98 Beauty Show, then Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. “Summertime’s here, kiddies,” the song begins, and we’re off, thrown amidst an astonishing tumult of verbiage – an awful lot of hypnotic lunatic dross – which dominates its 2:03 running time. There’s little to the music, aside some phoned-in guitar, but a decadent bassline and beat which evokes (like its opening line) “Dancin’ in the Streets” on Romilar – so maybe we could conjecture that it anticipates the time-loses-its-meaning, world-askew productions of DJ Skrew, in the sense that it makes you feel you’re listening in on something familiar that’s gone horribly wrong – but, somehow, the studio-musician anonymity of Fowley’s accompaniment is irrelevant. His incomprehensible spiel achieves, I hasten to say, some kind of brilliance. If I’m not mistaken, this is by the superproducer-cum-charlatan who masterminded both Sonny Bono’s would-be-Velvets solo single “Pammy’s On A Bummer,” as well as (thankfully) The Runaways.


The Seeds, “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine”


Sky Saxon needs a hug. His hyper-obsessive “Ohhh!”s, pitched between mewl and snarl, may be among the best in pop history. Pere Ubu, in their heyday, could have done a fantastic job at covering this, but I expect it may have been too heady (I’m thinking along the lines of a Dostoevskian lament) for the average listener.


The Remains, “Why Do I Cry”


Wow, this isn’t nearly as good as “Don’t Look Back” (incidentally their final single).


The Beau Brummels, “Laugh, Laugh”


Unlike, say, “Lies,” this is very much what it seems on the surface: a mostly colorless, indistinct Beatles rip-off. It picks up for the choruses, but remains pretty unmemorable to me. I forgot it was on my original Nuggets CD until I got it out a few days ago. Their “Just A Little” offers considerably more in the way of drama.


The Nightcrawlers, “The Little Black Egg”


Not much to say about this one. It vaguely sucks. I have a feeling this band is composed of people who were popular in high school. You may see where I’m going with this. Maybe I’m just a bit pissed because this otherwise wonderful disc is in the midst of a dry spell.


The Gants, “I Wonder”


More generic pop. Not too exciting, by my (admittedly warped) standards.


The Five Americans, “I See The Light”


Not one of my favorites. There’s nothing actively offensive about it, just passionless and nondescript, aside from the hoarse vocals. Originally put out on Hanna-Barbera’s record label – maybe they provided the chase music on a Scooby-Doo episode or two?


The Woolies, “Who Do You Love”


Jon Spencer Blues Explosion quoted this, I realize. These are some fucking incredible lyrics, especially the bit about the car roof (?) being made out of human skulls.


The Swingin’ Medallions, “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)”


I know I’ve heard this somewhere, and it’s not because of the crude pre-sampling sample of the organ hook from “96 Tears” (not the first knowing instance of theft to take place on this box, and certainly not the last; note that these bands probably honed a repertoire of covers before heading into the studio) and the group-vox tenor of that oldies-radio staple about how if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, better make a pretty wo-man your wife, so from my personal point of view, etc. Other than that, it’s pretty mild and/or unremarkable, and, to me, disappointing, as there’s not much rocking out being accomplished here. Perhaps floor filler existed back in the garage era, too.


The Merry-Go-Round, “Live”


Pleasant, ambling, and far too would-be British for my taste.


Paul Revere & The Raiders, “Steppin’ Out”


People insist that this really is a hard-rocking and hopelessly underrated band, but, try as I might to listen with unbiased ears, I just can’t take them seriously. Maybe it’s the shirtsleeves and tri-cornered hats, which always conjured up the mental image of a hippie Ben Franklin (Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon posits him as not only an avid pothead [likewise George Washington], but inventor of the rave) doing the Watusi while colonially-attired go-go girls frug about campily. No thank you, then.


Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, “Diddy Wah Diddy”


I think we’re all familiar with the mastermind behind this. This is one of the few entirely convincing blues covers of the era I’ve heard, by the way, and I believe that only Van Vliet (who else could cross-breed free jazz and blues skronk?) is the only one truly capable of pulling it off.


The Sonics, “Strychnine”


More fantastically brutal percussion. This is a case where the cover version (The Cramps’) falls far short of the original, I’m a bit sad to say.


Syndicate Of Sound, “Little Girl”


Pretty unimpeachable.


Blues Magoos, “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”


This is trying for something but it fails, but it’s just ridiculous. Albeit, I add, in a fairly good way.


Max Frost and the Troopers, “Shape Of Things To Come”


This seems a bit too clean, too ambitious, somehow. Perhaps I just like my garage rock scummy? These songs could be put into a number of simple categories, i.e. “Bar Band Workout” or “Paean to Sexual Tension” or “Would-Be Ambiguous Stab at Mysticism,” and it’s into the latter that the band’s entry falls. At 1:54, though, it doesn’t make much of an impression, plus there’s the sense one gets that the vocalist – to echo something Lester Bangs talked about regarding geeky, white-bread Americans’ adoption of psychedelic stances with hopes of appearing otherworldly and desirable – has no idea what he’s on about.


DISC 3


The Hombres, “Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)”


The band does a muted, quasi-Booker T. Vamp while someone’s grandfather does a carny pitch which he seems to periodically recall should rhyme every once in a while. Okay. I picture this playing over the opening credits of a really shitty movie of the sort seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000, i.e. Monster A Go-Go. What’s with the line about making “Galileo look like a Boy Scout”? Is he referring to the church’s scorning of his theories, or...? I’m equally clueless regarding the apparent relevance of the “eatin’-a-moon-sammich-with-sauerkraut” bit, but then it’s not as if I expect to chase this good-natured, silly drawl down foxholes of meaning. It’s fun enough, but was this novelty record really a “huge national hit,” as the liner notes attest? Whatever it is, it’s pretty hilarious.


The Golliwogs, “Fight Fire”


I’m wagering that these boys had a case of pre-Big-Star Anglophilia, perhaps due to the emphatic ring of the guitar during the chorus, the slowed-down gait of the bridge, lack of harmonica, etc. Like this band’s apparent idols, The Who, they seem caught upon a tightrope between R&B swagger and something more dignified and painterly in effect, cf. The tension between affected vocals and screams in the background. Did he just sing, “Don’t let me whack it?” (Oddly enough – unbelievably oddly enough – I’ve just learned from the liner notes that this group went on to become CCR.)


New Colony Six, “The River’s Edge”


More harmonica. An Orbison bassline, handclaps, an organ, etc. Are all added, never budging an inch from the single chord it’s all fastened to.


The Daily Flash, “Jack Of Diamonds”


Trashy, raw, but with its own strange sort of nobility.


Lyme & Cybelle, “Follow Me”


It’s pretty refreshing at first to hear a female voice on this box, but I can’t help but feel by the 0:30 mark that this is where Eastern mysticism began to prove to be psychedelic pop’s undoing. A brief, raw guitar makes an obligatory appearance, but I’m afraid it does little to offset the folk-rock-ishness of this song. The singing-in-the-round vocals remind me of a Gabor Szabo LP I bought at a thrift store once that’s all but ruined for me by its bizarre, voice-heavy mixdown, all the more disappointing since it was engineered by Bob Thiele of Coltrane fame – why were vocals so important in the sixties, anyhow? Didn’t surf rock make enough of an impact? – and a highly amusing, heavily-accented and stoned prelude from Szabo, a native Hungarian, extolling the virtues of San Francisco. It, like this, is some rather dippy shit.


The Choir, “It’s Cold Outside”


Thrilling, quietly cathartic naivete over a winsome, more or less predictable chord progression. The embarrassed joy I get at listening to this makes me wonder if it’s some stylistic progenitor of emo-pop.


The Rare Breed, “Beg, Borrow, And Steal”


This just in: “Louie, Louie” is not improved by intelligible lyrics or, for that matter, the addition of a bright, TV-singers chorus. There is a wonderful, near-Byrds quality to the solo, but I’m going to imagine that was unintentional, so as not to give this session-musician-like effort much more credit than it deserves.


Sir Douglas Quintet, “She’s About A Mover”


Almost reminiscent of Ray Charles gone skiffle, albeit in a trashed-up, bluesy fashion. I’m wondering if this is what Big Star’s “She’s A Mover” referenced on Radio City; it seems likely enough, but the title’s about the only connection. Maybe they had the same hometown? Oh, wait, the liner notes say these guys were Spanish (and tried to conceal their ethnicity).


The Music Explosion, “Little Bit O’ Soul”


This bit of school-dance ersatz-Motown was sampled on Cut Chemist’s “Lesson 6,” or one of his Jurassic 5 album interludes, I think. I remember this from oldies radio, or else an Alka-Seltzer commercial. I suppose my exposure to this kind of music is somewhat atypical.


The “E” Types, “Put The Clock Back On The Wall”


There is an interesting piano break and a few subtle arrangement twists that occur near the end, but, barring that, this doesn’t do a lot for me. A bit too pop, maybe.


The Palace Guard, “Falling Sugar”


Ugh. No thank you. The melody’s all over the place, and this sloppiness is not creative enough for my tastes. I’m a bit worn out on the sound of the harmonica, too.


The Gestures, “Run, Run, Run”


This band’s Anglophilia is highly apparent, but the guitar solo is pure Ventures. The singer is fairly dull, though.


The Rationals, “I Need You”


The Kinks’ song (finally, someone outright produces a cover of it instead of an inferior soundalike, despite the fact that they’d probably learned it from an import EP and hoped to pass it off as their own before its domestic release date; this was commonplace) is given a leering barfly swagger in the place of Ray Davies’ schoolboy reticence and cracked-plate fragility. This makes it considerably more boring, though.


The Humane Society, “Knock, Knock”


Things begin calmly enough, with some fake-Eastern guitar dynamics and mean yet subdued Jagger-slurred vocals, but there’s a sudden tempo shift, then things are brought to a slow, vengeful boil filled with theatrical stabs at fatalism worthy of some alternate-plane-of-reality, redneck-y Bauhaus. Suddenly the rush begins again, the singer turns unfettered and terrifying (on par with, say, Darby Crash), and everything careens wildly, and I do mean wildly, out of control, then cuts off. I could’ve listened to this for a while longer, at least the latter third of it, which is nothing short of incredible.


The Groupies, “Primitive”


The band name had me expecting something akin to the Zappa-produced GTO’s, then I realized this had been covered (quite effectively) by the Cramps. Sweaty, grim, and sinister, highlighted by a massive drum sound and seasick guitar, this seems ideal for the soundtrack of some Eastmancolor film about swamp creatures and pre-silicone strippers.


The Sonics, “Psycho”


Ugh, a bit too frat-rock for my tastes. Lyrically dumb as ever, this makes me wonder, was this the Bizkit of its day? Probably, but I still like the worried sax chorus and hoarser-than-hoarse vocals, which occasionally seem to threaten the microphone with meltdown. Indeed, it sounds like they replaced it (or else the engineer was a bit too anxious to begin the fadeout, during which the vocalist’s shrieks all but drown out the instrumental backing) with a more noise-efficient one halfway through.


The Lyrics, “So What!!”


From the opening salvo of grindhouse harmonica and tool-shop drums, one gets a feeling this is going to be about as mean and raw as it gets. And, indeed, that promise is soon delivered upon, with all the raunchy fuck-you-rich-girl nihilism (there one ill-advised stab at political comment, though, regarding a “senseless, useless bomb shelter”) a young man of this far simpler era could hope for. The final yelp of the chorus lands like a set of patio furniture tossed into a swimming pool.


The Lollipop Shoppe, “You Must Be a Witch”


Gasping, desperate, and visionary, poised somewhere between proto-metal and the surging cascades of emocore; if Bob Mould owns this 45, which I expect he does, that could explain quite a bit. The dual-guitar rev-up situated near its stop-start coda is a dead ringer for a Les Savy Fav moment.


The Balloon Farm, “A Question Of Temperature”


Fretboard-scribbling runs and what almost resembles early turntable scratching permeates this minimalist, near-Krautrock bass-and-drums pulse, which, though already lean and powerful, is given an added brooding edge by jaded vocals and exclamation marks fashioned from ethereal organ and fuzz guitar. This is at least ten years ahead of its time.


Mouse & The Traps, “Maid Of Sugar – Maid Of Spice”


This is lots better than the group’s previous entry, A highly Monks-esque (but more dense and full-bodied, with an oddball pop sensibility that the Monks missed by a mile on their truly weird and barely listenable final single), freaky, deranged romp. There’s a trebly solo that closes things out in the expected, yet sublime, fashion.


The Uniques, “You Ain’t Tuff”


Things begin fairly dull, but the addition of a strummed acoustic guitar to the mix, as well as a stunning and unexpected chord change, turns things in a more interesting direction. Still, the vocalist (who sounds a bit far from the mic from time to time) is pretty pedestrian; The Lyrics’ frontman does this kind of thing a lot better.


The Standells, “Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White”


I would argue Minor Threat did wonders for this song, both rhythmically and vocally. The only thing I miss from their cover version is the tinny keyboard highlights, but there’s no way they could’ve fit that in with their brash, formidable guitar tone. The Standells’ version (see how i’m, in some strange way, refusing to give them full credit for the song? I often feel the same way when hearing the original obscure soul B-side sampled in a hip-hop track) does boast some amusing, defiant pseudo ad-libs tossed into the fray during the fade-out, among them “You don’t dig this long hair? Get yourself a crew cut!”


The Mojo Men, “She’s My Baby”


Opening with a raw blast of fuzz, a galloping drumbeat enters that puts the Doors bluesier catalogue entries to shame. Even if their grasp of the finer nuances of melody is pretty tenuous, these guys more then compensate for it by sounding mean. You know, like hardcore.


Unrelated Segments, “Story Of My Life”


Things take a bit too long to get going, and the drumrolls and guitar chimes are pure filler. I’m a fan of the Question-Mark-derived vocal mannerisms and the track’s general jumpiness, though.


The Third Bardo, “I’m Five Years Ahead Of My Time”


It’s a bit of a spy-theme cover, this one, with slight Middle Eastern inflections; thankfully, things don’t go in the Tibetan-Book-of-the-Dead direction of the band name. The callous guitar playing, when given room to breathe (of course it’s the paradox of the song that it all but drowns out everything else going on when it is in fact provided with an all-too-brief moment to do so), is superb, about as good as these things get.


We The People, “Mirror Of Your Mind”


More moonshine-still, marching-band dementia. It’s pretty simple, though; I’ll take the Monks over this, obviously, since they seemed to know what to sing over this kind of calamitous racket (hint: it’s not half-written pseudo-psychedelic purging). The band does get it right about two thirds of the way through the track, though, as good a demonstration as any that chaos and excess can still tear the roof off.


The Shadows Of Knight, “Bad Little Woman”


A purring vocalist and some sinister organ vamping depict pure teenage evil. The rave-up sections seem forced, though; I could’ve done with some more slow-burn tormented eroticism.


The Music Machine, “Double Yellow Line”


With some eerie, dissonant guitar chords, a snarled, urgent vocal, and a generous helping of more menacing fuzz, we’ve got some more genius from this angry bunch. The guitar solo’s awfully lucid for this sort of thing, but still retains an unholy amount of power. I’d love to see this on the soundtrack to the unsettling mirror-image of Rushmore.


The Human Expression, “Optical Sound”


Maybe one of the downright silliest band name/song title matchups in recent memory, but this is also a claustrophobic, fascinating comedown that, with its reverbed percussion and well-timed guitar shrieks (it sounds like they couldn’t afford a theremin, and sought to achieve something otherworldly by more cost-effective means), is far more interesting listening than some of the box’s more camp-value entries. This is definitely the most diverse disc in the set, I have realized.


The Amboy Dukes, “Journey To The Center Of The Mind”


How could Nugent not have known this was about drugs? This is as propulsive as anything else on the box, though “Open My Eyes” (to which it seems to hold the relationship of trashy, beach-bum cousin) still edges it out in terms of atmosphere. The “Come along if you care!” pre-chorus is especially embarrassing, but the hopeless naiveté of this whole sunny affair is pretty winsome.


DISC 4


The Chocolate Watchband, “Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In)”


Whatever’s going on at this love-in, I can’t help but feel it’s a bit more sinister than the expected face-painting and daisy chains (ahem). A fantastically hateful yet triumphant chorus, scouring guitar, and pummelling rhythm section: what more could you ask for from sneery psych-punk? Filthy, mean, and brilliant.


The Leaves, “Too Many People”


Things start out pretty chaotic and never quite recover from this seasick vibe, and musically there’s a bit too much going on, but this song offers up one truly classic master stroke of hey-man-get-off-my-case alienation-fueled sentiment in its rhetorical query, “Wear a suit and tie / When I’d rather sit and die?”


The Brigands, “(Would I Still Be) Her Big Man”


More working-class melodrama with a singer who I’m guessing seems to hold his voice in much higher regard than it deserves. A minute and a half in, we get another of those we’ve-officially-run-out-of-ideas chord changes and a histrionic line about eating in fancy restaurants; about all of this, well, the less said, the better. There’s a nice guitar tone, though.


The Barbarians, “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl”


Allen-Sherman-esque novelty-song title and subject matter aside (okay, long hair, we get it), there isn’t much to say about this. It’s not exactly a probing investigation of gender politics, if you catch my drift. I’m guessing that not much thought went into this one; as a result, I’m glad when it deteriorates into something of a groping-around-the-beat jam midway through. Moulty holds it down on the drums surprisingly well, though.


Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, “Wooly Bully”


What can you really say about this? Simple, ridiculous, and just about perfect. I still don’t really understand what’s going on in the song, storyline-wise, though.


The Strangeloves, “I Want Candy”


A handed-down Bo Diddley chord progression is glossed up in proto-bubblegum style, later to be covered by Bow Wow Wow and subsequently swiped at by Hüsker Dü. However, what came both before and after this song is a good deal more interesting. The layered, expressionless vocals make this sound like some kind of Ed Sullivan Show production number; I can practically see the twirling peppermint umbrellas and straw boater hats – maybe Sammy Davis, Jr. (an avowed member of the Church of Satan, by the way) comes in next for a nice segue into “Candy Man.”


The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie”


Leave it to Rhino to bury this well into the fourth disc, right? It may be interesting to note that the group’s singer was not only drunk and hoarse, but was recovering from jaw surgery, plus was fired about a week after this recording date. This sheds new light on the famous, FBI-investigated, ambiguous filthiness – I’m reminding of what the Spin Alternative Record Guide said about Pussy Galore’s lo-fi decadence and its propensity to make listeners “strain to hear obscenities they couldn’t quite make out” – of the vocals.


The Knickerbockers, “One Track Mind”


Pretty much what you would expect. “Lies” is superior; this veers a bit too far into Lennon-alike territory. A bit direly repetitive, but I’m sure it would’ve been nice to dance to, right?


Wailers, “Out Of Our Tree”


Reverby drum shots and a trebly fuzz guitar that soon gets buried in the mix with a collapsing wall of organ drone and suitably untrained vocalist. The drummer remains the real star here, with quite a few crisp-yet-raw breaks that, again, could’ve easily been slowed down to half-speed or so and chopped up in El-P’s rawest heyday (was underground hip-hop circa 1997 an analog for garage rock, only with an added emphasis on prowess as further signifier of “realness”? Were these groups evaluated on standards of realness by their fans – I’m safely assuming, I think, that this scene existed well below any critical radar that may have existed at the time [and probably was just warming up to the idea of the Beatles being able “composers”; it’s awfully funny to read grousing statements from the likes of Truman Capote or Irving Berlin on how early Motown pop was shrill, repetitive, etc. yet a guilty pleasure, as it more or less mirrors modern attitudes towards, say, N*Sync] or were they, like Lenny Kaye stated in his original liner notes, merely known for their ability to play things “Just Like The Record”?). There’s an unexpected bass solo near the end of the track, when all else has been stripped away, and it adds a lot more than you think it would.


Harbinger Complex, “I Think I’m Down”


Doped-up, moronic, melancholy, and entirely unconvincing. Nonethless, it’s a fun listening, especially the early-Stones enunciation (the chunky fuzztone guitar’s stoned stagger, as well as the drums’ lazy gait, anticipates some strange alchemy of the Andrew Loog Oldham days and the considerably more nuanced, worn-out, sludgy brilliance heard on Exile On Main Street, only without the gospel and blues posturing).


The Dovers, “What Am I Going To Do”


Pretty dippy stuff, here, but the recording and arranging quality’s a few notches above the standard. If the Ramones covered this, it’d be the track you usually feel like skipping, unless you’re in love with a girl who etc., etc. I like it, though, because I’m in a good mood.


The Charlatans, “Codine”


My initial instinct was that this was some kind of naughtily-cloaked (or simply misspelled) ode to cough syrup, and the shambling acid-damaged pastoral feel of the track – like a severely budget-restrained Village Green Preservation Society – nurtured this instinct, but the moaning pushing-40 vocals prove otherwise. As a result, my interest wanes throughout the track. I’m not too fond of this stretch of the box, really (I’m not in as good a mood as I was when writing the previous entry).


The Mystery Trend, “Johnny Was A Good Boy”


There is some awfully trebly hunt-and-peck guitar present here, but I’m a sucker for the ominous, looming waves of pre-Moog bass. Without it, though (see the bridge sections, which feature some clumsy vocals), the song’s carefully (or not-so-) constructed mood falls completely apart. No thanks, guys.


Clefs Of Lavender Hill, “Stop – Get A Ticket”


This sounds less like garage rock in and of itself than a garage band imitating pop, featuring a strangely inside-out mix until the midsection provides some relief. The pre-“Waiting For the Man” group-percussion breaks win me over, though, as does the bassline. I’m not much for the airy harmonies.


The Monks, “Complication”


Now things pick up, with a great entry from a band who – and not only for their gigging-in-Germany origins and shaved tonsures – may very well have been the anti-Beatles. Whiskey-soaked vocal dementia (I’ve always been a fan of the unexpected “Constipation!” line), an electrified banjo – this sound provided by jamming a microphone directly through the body of the instrument, mind – and some two-note organ that congeals in frustrated puddles around the main, uh, “melody” all add up to startling effect. This is the rare song that tries to be equally outré in subject matter and technical execution, and succeeds remarkably well at both. Has there ever been anyone since who sounds quite like these guys?


The Sonics, “The Witch”


Kurt Cobain was right, they are pretty stupid (though not as dumb as on “Psycho”) and they do have an incredible drum sound. This song also features a downright incredible saxophone/fuzzpedal doubling, even if the musicians seem to lose interest about halfway through this song as it turns into something altogether more frenzied and slapdash; there are also some startling volume drop-outs, but that, of course, only adds to its charm. The guitar solo is, as could be expected, ridiculous.


The Electric Prunes, “Get Me To The World On Time”


I like the almost genteel line about the hormonal shake-up, the almost-wild maraca-laced bridge, and, as mentioned earlier, the proto-MBV quality of the tremolo pulse running throughout, but this seems curiously underdeveloped to me. Perhaps (unless it’s of the quality of The Nazz, or the Prunes’ previous single) I like my psychedelia raw and bewildered, born out of some strange and atavistic urgency mutually exclusive to the desire to wax hit records.


The Other Half, “Mr. Pharmacist”


So maybe the singer sounds a bit like Randy Newman, but this still pretty much kicks ass. The subject matter of the song’s immediately understood as soon as you see the title, of course, so any illicit the-band-and-I-are-in-on-the-same-joke thrill experienced in some other songs, like “Journey To The Center Of The Mind” is pretty much lost; then again, I suspect that it was late enough in the psychedelic era that such things had grown a bit old. Is this, then, a parody of a drug-extolling song, or am I deconstructing things too far? This seems likely enough, since the band’s mean age could be seventeen – it’s difficult, after all, to attribute their energy to any variety of methamphetamine without thinking it could merely be due to sheer hyperactivity. This was later covered, if I’m not mistaken, by The Fall, too. It’s interesting to hear this after “Psychotic Reaction,” since this song – right down to its mangled, double-time guitar bridge and identical series of drum hits – is as transparent a Count Five imitation as Mouse’s “A Public Execution” is of Dylan.


Richard & The Young Lions, “Open Up Your Door”


A rough-hewn sonic backdrop, for sure: fuzz bass, dinky chimes, percussion hits as ill-timed as those on RZA’s “Bring Da Ruckus.” But somehow it all collides into near bliss, which is subsequently torn apart by a throat-shedding scream. Hints of aggression and lust once again lurk in candied surroundings.


Paul Revere & The Raiders, “Just Like Me”


This is quite a bit better than their other entry, workmanlike dance-rock with a catchy, near-Cars keyboard hook and nervy vocals. Thankfully, it doesn’t resemble the work of session men – things are more raw – even if it fails to camouflage its underlying Kinks-worship (the guitarist is a good deal better than on any of their early singles, though, I can’t help but think).


We The People, “You Burn Me Up And Down”


Raunchy and lust-mad, with a repeated, descending riff that bristles and throbs. Things hint more at frayed 3 a.m. comedown than revved-up abandon, but that just makes the desperation herein even more unsettlingly effective.


The Lemon Drops, “I Live In The Springtime”


At first, it appears that there are some tape-speed issues with this track, but I believe it’s a matter of odd tunings and utterly perplexing ascending/descending note patterns. It’s queasy and uncomfortable, and I don’t think I’d like it nearly as well were the melody carried out in a more straightforward manner. The barely-restrained tonal harshness of the solo provides a true thrill, especially amid the otherwise idyllic melody and lyrics. Sure enough, things get a bit wild again before the conclusion.


Fenwyck, “Mindrocker”


A bit too baroque – if not approaching the outright silliness of L.A. mysticism – with another extreme, weird mix that accentuates all the wrong parts of the track. The sheet-of-hum-and-whir guitar part is a welcome addition to the song, but things are just too subdued to really lift off. “A pretty ballerina”? Huh?


The Rumors, “Hold Me Now”


Pretty basic, notable for its unschooled everyone-joins-in vocals and a thin, trebly mix. This could easily be dripping out of the jukebox in one of those films like Attack of the the [sic; the dripping-wax title card actually says that] Eye Creatures.


The Underdogs, “Love’s Gone Bad”


Another song that conjures up the image of Ian Svenonious taking notes. Aside from its introduction’s resemblance to a Make-Up template, it’s fairly unremarkable. We’re in another slow stretch.


The Standells, “Why Pick On Me”


Wherein our young hero, in a classic line, laments the disloyal femme fatale’s predilection for “short, short skirts / and dirty boots.” There’s some incredible keyboard and loping-caravan guitar complementing the track, which boils up to a rousing, half-disgusted chorus. Later the lyrics seem to clue us in to the fact that our hero is being denied a certain, uh, component of the feminine essence; no wonder he’s so distraught over the whole matter.


The Zakary Thaks, “Bad Girl”


A far more energetic, if a trifle monochromatic, treatment of the above track’s themes. This could be a lot catchier if it was a bit louder. I think my undying love for Kinks solos has been fairly well covered at this point, so let us move on.


Gonn, “Blackout of Gretely”


Standard bar-band-goes-through-the-motions chords and playing, given a bizarre, disorienting edge by the random addition of psychedelic phasing on the vocals; the engineer must’ve heard Surrealistic Pillow a few days prior to the final mixdown. I can hear him now, saying something on the order of, “This is the now, guys!” Somehow, the conventionality of the song makes these stranger touches, like the leaps in volume, dominant organ, and non-ending, all the more apparent. What are the lyrics about (“The universe was permeated with kerosene!” in sort of Jim Henson voice)? Does it matter? Things are floating about in the watery mix, and this sounds like a suitable entry for the last disc, a kind of humble, sloppy, we’re-doing-the-best-we-can elegy for garage rock itself, more or less dead by 1968.


The Bees, “Voices Green And Purple”


Three guitar notes never sounded so good, stilted octave leaps, heaped-on reverb, and all. The Swell Maps’ best and worst tendencies come to mind. The speak-singing adds a strange, sad paranoiac element (“Voices green and purple / they’ll get you somehow! Oh please, please, no, no!!” It’s interesting to note that this predates Ozzy’s similar lament on “Black Sabbath”) that brings to mind a certain Kesey-inspired Dragnet episode. So sanitized is its freak-out, I somehow seriously doubt that its writers (a bit like this band) ever tried drugs, or even did much research into the matter; these cartoonish forms of popular entertainment are to the narcotics/psychedelics vogue what Billy Idol’s Cyberpunk was to virtual reality.


The Angels, “Blues’ Theme (From the Motion Picture The Wild Angels)”


And we close out with a near-surf fuzztone instrumental, which comes with a healthy dose of motorbike revving. Already, it seems we can hear the innovations and textures of the garage genre slicked-up, given a “Crunchy Granola Suite” studio sheen. It’s a bit like hearing drum-and-bass chatter in the background of baby shampoo ads.


Nuggets II: An Odyssey (Of A Different Sort)

If reviewing every track on the Nuggets box was something of a draining endeavor, it was also an enjoyable one: discovering the subtleties of a musical genre that, at first glance, seemed not to possess any great wealth of them proved uniquely rewarding. However, doing the same – or something that’s sort of the same – for Nuggets II is something I suspect will prove very different. For one thing, scattershot listens through the box as a whole have failed to arrest me in the visceral way its predecessor did (I’m thinking in particular of tracks like The Humane Society’s “Knock, Knock” and the Remains’ “Don’t Look Back”). I don’t truly believe that British rock (which is what most of the box is comprised of) is truly less visceral, or less interesting – if lacking the “garage” signifier, it certainly has its share of others, most of which (“freakbeat”) are more or less as wholly mysterious to me as those of its modern-day micro-managed dance subculture – but I have to admit I’m lacking significant cultural contexts needed to appreciate it as I can its US counterpart. For one thing, US garage, cf. Seeds, Sonics, et al., seems to have contributed a bit more to punk as we know it. Now, the last thing I want to do is lob another cannonball in the across-the-Atlantic intellectual-property dispute; I’m merely saying that, much-touted Who influence on the Sex Pistols aside, a song like The Music Machine’s “Talk Talk” seems to have a more direct lineage to the Ramones than the Creation’s nonetheless excellent “Biff, Bang, Pow!” (which sounds, in case you’re curious, almost like a countrified, piano-laced Buzzcocks). However, maybe this opinion will change as I listen to the box (remember that a lot of US �60s punks were imitating, and in some cases only performing slight surgery on, British tracks). Its sheer sprawl seems more daunting to me this time around, probably because I’m not as readily familiar with as many of the groups as I am on the first Nuggets; the fact that I thought about seven of the groups contained therein (aside from the Pretty Things, Van Morrison, and the Creation, really) could’ve been David Bowie’s pre-fame project is not a good sign. (Let’s hope I don’t resort to excessive England-bashing halfway through.)


So, this time, I’m going to review things in a strictly sequential order. As of today, there’s a lot on the box I’ve yet to hear, so the element of surprise seems important to keep in mind. Maybe I can cobble together a half-baked theory about immediacy and sonic impact – these songs, I imagine, were meant to be heard in something of a hit-and-run fashion – to support what is in actuality no shortage of laziness on my behalf, but for now let’s just say that (I’ll keep the track-by-track comments a good deal more brief than they were on my last run-through; think of this as a Juke Box Jury commentary, or something similarly antediluvian.) So, onward.


DISC 1


"Making Time", The Creation


We all know this one from Rushmore, and as a result it’s somewhat difficult to separate from the film (which gives its angst a more gentle undercurrent). I’m enamored with the way its simple riff and brutal and just slightly sloppy drums explode into a wonderful bit of electric-shock chaos midway through. This is the right way to play a solo.


"Father's Name Was Dad", Fire


Some neat, ahead-of-its-time pentatonic, interlocked bass and guitar offsets its pretty (albeit extremely derivative; I won’t be surprised to find an equal amount of Kinks-worship between this box and the US one) harmonizing. The lilting bridge, where the singer’s voice suddenly changes – momentarily abandoning his Davies impression – is a highlight.


"I Can Hear The Grass Grow", The Move


This time, the hectic bridge’s change-up manages to out-nasal Townshend (considering that this band smashed TVs and even a car onstage, I guess it’s clear they wanted to top their idols). There’s some bizarre plucking during the verses, and even a "Thunderbirds are go!” blast-off, which hints at an overall pop-art aesthetic.


"My Friend Jack", The Smoke


A smug, winking LSD reference managed to keep this off the radio. Brief blasts of tremolo add some needed color, but the effect on the whole feels underutilized to me; the strutting bassline that we encounter halfway through is a great touch, but this is fairly generic.


"My White Bicycle", Tomorrow


A much weirder, more finely crafted, deliberately psychedelic number. The backwards tapes are excellently utilized – not merely grafted into the song, they end up sounding as if everything else was built on them – and for once sound as disorienting as they’re meant to, especially the call-and-response between forward chime and backwards soloing, as well as the ending buildup and breakdown.


"I'll Keep Holding On", The Action


I’m told this is mod, and I don’t much care for it. It’s a little too slick and colorless for me, but it’s fascinating to hear what a group of white teens’ reinterpretation of polished Motown pop (a Marvelettes cover!) instead of grimy, masculine rhythm and blues. This could be good to dance to, but – not unlike house – it seems to dangle its own superiority above me, making me feel like I’m not cool enough.


"When The Night Falls", The Eyes


The Link Wray cast to the brief slashes of guitar, offset against some quasi-Latin percussive colors, then run through a vast, desolate echo, makes this quite memorable, if slightly puzzling..


"Sorry", The Easybeats


Oh, shit! This was in a Gap ad! I fucking love this song! The part you don’t hear is even better, but the scraping tick,tick of the guitar and the spacious chorus are just about brilliant.


"Imposters Of Life's Magazine", The Idle Race


I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Meek had a hand in this ultra,compressed, incoherent, shrilly hideous wreck. It’s bizarrely compelling but awful, especially its sped,up, cartoony hook. Decent production would help – I’d love to hear the guitar given room to breathe – but it wouldn’t have the sickly charm.


"How Is The Air Up There?", The La De Das


A wonderful slice of rugged and completely inept New Zealand class-war rhetoric. Like a prime Chocolate Watchband single, I prefer this Jagger caricature to the genuine article.


"Mud In Your Eye", Les Fleur De Lys


Hefty guitars that keep threatening to explode into a cathartic snarl (and, yes, they finally do), but not much else; I’m generally appalled by the singer and completely out-of-place harmonizing. I suspect that the band were fully conscious of their weaknesses, though, since they deliver the goods right when things start to get irritating. Well, at least they do until they realize the song’s supposed to have another verse. That’s when I tire of it.


"Everything (That's Mine)", The Motions


It’s from the Netherlands, so I was hoping for something akin to the Zipps, but I was pretty sorely disappointed. Things get pretty wonderfully chaotic near the middle of the track, but I’d prefer to hear more bar-band raucousness.


"Garden Of My Mind", The Mickey Finn


A great, chill-inducing bassline is soon joined by splintered, menacing guitar, and a psychedelic blast-off ensues. It’s definitely a simple, yet effective, formula.The organ sounds rather out-of-place, though (Jimi Hendrix, who gets mercilessly ripped off by at least half of this song, certainly didn’t require one).


"Take A Heart", The Sorrows


I knew this was going to get loud from the cynical, sexually charged hush of its intro, but they manage to screw up a formulaic song structure. It’s boring.


"The Life I Live", Q'65


Not bad for a pedestrian spy-blues number that announces its intent with a hard-to-believe rip off the Pink Panther theme. The Dutch vocals, which, when decipherable, provide some great moments, i.e. "My dog wass keelled by car!” Sloppy, decadent, raw, and compelling.


"Midnight To Six Man", The Pretty Things


A classic of its kind – the double-speed breaks add infinite value – but I seem to prefer just about everything else I’ve heard from them. Perhaps muting the honky-tonk piano would make me like this a bit more; as it is, there’s something hokey and mannered about it (did they think manically rolling their fingers over the same few keys was a key component in American electrified blues? Did Mike Garson start off doing this?).


"I See The Rain", The Marmalade


Another Gap ad song! This is the lustrous, mellow ballad with, I think, Dennis Hopper in the ad. It sounds very much of its time, but at once transcends it, entirely unlike the next track, which came on when I was still in a dreamy state from this one (those who know me may understand that I very rarely experience pop bliss, but when I do, it’s brutal, mang).


"The First Cut Is The Deepest", The Koobas


Horrible and very, very overproduced. The orchestral salvos and unfurling ribbons of is-there-anybody-out-there guitar really just make me want to punch this band in the face. Jesus. Had David Axelrod been at the boards, though, this could’ve been intriguing.


"You Stole My Love", The Mockingbirds


The cavernous production on the guitar makes me think this band picked up some mid-60s John Fahey LPs on Pete Townshend’s recommendation. Things proceed fine, until the female backing chorus and weirdly Bacharach-esque midsection derails it all. Love could pull this off, adding a lysergic free,float splendor to it all; these fellas, uh, pretty much can’t.


"125 (album version)", The Haunted


Did the Fall cover this? I think so. The harmonica sounds really good here. (Seldom will you hear me make that statement.) It’s uncomplicated, but perfect.


"My Mind's Eye", The Small Faces


There’s something mildly pretentious about this – especially for such a derivative hymns-go-rock melody and lyrical pattern, even as it almost fools me into thinking I’m hearing it performed by its originators – that I find off-putting. So I’m not a fan.


"Going Nowhere", Los Bravos


This bothers me also, at least until the unrelentingly cheerful chorus hits and makes me grant the band forgiveness. The vibes and saxophone irritated me at first, but they do provide a welcome contrast to the brief guitar solo. It, like the song, is over a bit too soon.


"All Night Stand", The Thoughts


A windswept intro hints at balladeering drama, but then a too-fast tempo again proves sufficient to irritate me. I’m beginning to wish I had some Prefuse 73 around to listen to. This could be an excellent Beatles knock-off, but the band simply doesn’t possess the vocal talent or distinctiveness to make much of an impression. Oddly enough, Ray Davies wrote this, and it was issued to promote a pulp novel published by Kinks producer Shel Talmy (who I always thought was a "Nanker Phelge”,like alias for the band’s songwriting team)! I guess I don’t need to say that I’d rather hear Ray performing this.


"War Or Hands Of Time", The Masters Apprentices


This sounds very American, but also rather dull. The drumbreak and guitar solo are invigorating, though.


"It's A Sin To Go Away", We All Together


Only in Peru, I guess. Wavering curtains of organ, a rollicking-yet-almost-solemn breakbeat begging to be sampled, and some truly ethereal, androgynous vocal laments make this sound like a more cheerful, death-obsessed-turned-cosmic Portishead. Is this psych-soul? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like it; the backwards guitars irritate me this time, but what sounds like an early synthesizer providing a bassline makes me want to listen to this over again. Definitely a wonderful surprise on the box.


"A Dream For Julie", Kaleidoscope


"Strawberry monkeys”? I think I’ll pass. I’ve been sent into twee overload, but the multilayered puzzle of guitar is rather brilliantly produced, one notices, when it’s given room to breathe.


"I Read You Like An Open Book", The Tages


A carnivalesque bricolage of tempos and styles that manages to hang together well, despite a somewhat bland Swedish pop vocal. It’s all very "Your Mother Should Know” in spots, and makes me want to go listen to Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers when it’s over, actually. (With the first disc over, I’m going to take a break for a few hours.)


DISC 2


“Children Of The Sun”, The Misunderstood


An endlessly confident swagger of a song which speeds up to a frenetic pace within its first minute and pulls some of the same tricks employed by the Chocolate Watchband on “Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In?)” – juxtaposing a threatening, aggressively sexual demeanor with peace-and-love lyrics. Some of the guitar flagellations that take place in this track’s less-than-three minutes span are unbelievably intense; of course, I want to credit this to the group’s American status, but I’ll resist that.


“Save My Soul”, Wimple Winch


Offsetting the previous track’s clamor, this one offers up endless cool; it’s no less successful at what it tries to do, if we ignore the puzzlingly lame group name for a moment. As the last minute begins, though, things reach full velocity, and we are again rocketed into full,on R&B onslaught (listen to the way the vocalist, without the spare time for a call-and-response, merely answers his own yelps).


“Desdemona”, John's Children


The coyly arrogant “lift up your skirt and fly” lyric (punctuated with a massive, sexual burst of tremolo) pretty much insured the denial of airplay. Marc Bolan is on guitar, here, but I wasn’t aware of that until reading the liner notes.


“I Can Only Give You Everything”, Van Morrison


A nice, uncomplicated, eager-to-please stomper from the man who would later bring us the likes of Astral Weeks. The organ sounds awfully thin atop the much more powerful guitar (which it often seems to be playing the exact same thing as), but that’s an asset.


“Lost Girl”, The Troggs


After hearing Lester Bangs go on about the obscene grandeur of the Troggs’ output in his “James Taylor Marked for Death” essay, I’m extremely disappointed in this. It sounds like TV Western theme music given screechy, novelty-song vocal treatment, which is not to say it is without its own charms, but I was hoping for something that rippled with the menace of, say, “I Can’t Control Myself.”


“I Must Be Mad”, The Craig


The manic, hell-bent-on-destruction drums (the power of which a cymbal-crashing intro abundantly makes clear) are provided by Carl Palmer of the much-reviled ELP. The drumming indeed steals the show, though the needling, treble-rich guitar is a plus; there really isn’t much else to the song. Another very odd band name, I can’t help but note.


“Say Those Magic Words”, The Birds


This is competent and mildly rousing, but it still doesn’t do much for me despite the fact that it seems like the sort of thing I’d normally go nuts over. Perhaps it’s too predictable, not tuneful enough.


“Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad”, Caleb


Reverbed-to-oblivion, megaphone vocals and tons of slipstream phasing juice up this essentially enjoyable little number, but there’s not much effect to be had from this, aside from TV-druggy sonics; it’s about as successful at communicating anything meaningful as the titular girl he’s speaking to is, I guess. Interesting, neat noises do not a good song make, especially one as thin on melody and drive as this one.


“Daddy Buy Me A Girl”, Golden Earrings


The washes of harp made me think at first that this was another one I was going to have to respectfully decline to comment on, but things got better. Sort of. The faux-Kinks music-hall whimsy of it all’s a bit much, as is the avant-garde (?) junk-shop tinkling in the midst of it. (I really thought this was some sort of pre-Monkees Davy Jones track, until what I thought for a while was it showed up a bit later; it turned out to be the one featuring an early Bowie.) And don’t get me started on the title.


“Exit Stage Right”, Ronnie Burns


A perfect guitar-and-drums hook anchors this feel-good, extremely simple (and extremely Beatles-y) groove, which I had to seriously reassess my reaction towards once I discovered the unlikeliest of unsavory culprits – the Bee Gees – were responsible for three-fourths of its music. Eek.


“Gone Is The Sad Man”, Timebox


This is a bit too watery, too orchestrated, for my liking. The bridge does offer some sublime moments, except that they unfortunately sound like they’re going on in a recording booth somewhere down the hall, which makes me think that maybe the whole wall-of-sound feel of this single was a miraculous idiot-savant fluke. (I thought this vocalist was David Bowie for a while; his enunciation during the chorus seemed to me a dead giveaway.)


“I'm Rowed Out”, The Eyes


Some crisp, catchy mod pop with a strung-out vocalist that doesn’t exactly send me to my thesaurus searching for superlatives; it nonetheless has its own vaguely invigorating charm. The main problem, I think, is that it sounds a lot like “I Can’t Explain.” Another is that it goes on for about two minutes too long.


“You've Got A Habit Of Leaving”, Davy Jones


Vocally, this is even worse than I thought it’d be. Bowie’s voice is extremely flat and malnourished on this one – let’s leave the lyrics aside, for now – but a brief, bouncy piano-and-bass interlude and subsequent fantastic guitar-rave up (which really sounds as if it’s been overdubbed from an unrelated song) save it from oblivion.


“Reflections Of Charles Brown”, Rupert's People


A bizarre mistranslation of soul music into another idiom, one we haven’t thought up a name for yet. The lyrics are effectively grim, but I find myself immediately biased against non-Davies (or non-Mark E. Smith) social criticism from the British pop world.


“Words Enough To Tell You”, The Mascots


Sweden has let me down a bit here. The guitar’s got a pleasant sub-Byrdsian chime to it, but that’s about all that distinguishes this.


“That's The Way It's Got To Be”, The Poets


For a while, this song succeeds in lulling me in with its dark, driving instrumental work, but the singer’s downright goofy theatricality (and seeming speech impediment) more or less ruins whatever they were going for. Still, it’s of interest as a slice of low,budget, wailing melodrama; there are some downright surreal vocal moments on the fade-out.


“14 Hour Technicolour Dream”, The Syn


I doubt this band really understood the psychedelic event they were talking about; it’s almost as hokey as any of the pious odes to San Francisco produced Stateside. The line about shooting yourself is kind of confusing (and thusly of interest), though.


“Walking Through My Dreams”, The Pretty Things


I find the Pretty Things’ lush, psychedelic incarnation – circa the album S.F. Sorrow – far more nuanced and intriguing than their earlier work (it’s still great, of course, just in an entirely different way). There’s a hint of darkness and obsession here – listen to the nagging, cyclical guitar break – that I’m particularly fond of.


“You Said”, The Primitives


This is the kind of harmonica use I refuse to stand for. The requisite bashing-it-out fast sections, and deranged hillbilly guitar work from none other than Jimmy Page, make everything else pretty fantastic, though.


“This Life Of Mine”, The Lost Souls


Dark and somber, but also nearly impossible to take seriously as anything other than a bout of teenage moodiness. The deadpan line about being born with a fist in one’s face, though, achieves the unthinkable in rivalling Cannibal Ox’s “My mother said I sucked her pussy when I came out” for sheer astonishment.


“Shadows & Reflections”, The Action


An incredible letdown, given the band name. The Switched-On Bach keyboards hurt to listen to, but the swinging, handclap-laden beat and curious swell of TV-theme brass (produced by none other than George Martin) make this a lot better than it seems to have any right to be.


“Friday On My Mind”, The Easybeats


This more or less defies criticism, so we’ll move on.


“In The Land Of The Few”, Love Sculpture


The rare low-budget, slightly-orchestral-flavored track that doesn’t collapse under the weight of its own quirkiness (probably because it knows enough to relegate hey-look-we-rented-a-harpsichord studio garnishes to the intro and background), this also boasts a wonderful, varied melodic sensibility. I feel like I should hate this for being somewhat proto-prog, but it wins me over nonetheless.


“For Another Man”, The Motions


Minimal but effective. I was surprised to learn that this originated from the Netherlands, as it lacks a certain gaucheness (which, however, can make for some outrageously great singles) that those tracks possess.


“Fire Brigade”, The Move


Ugh. Pervy and twee and, of course, shamefully irresistible.


“Gaby”, The Boots


A German take on early Pretty-Things-style R&B that’s unsurprisingly puzzling. I’m trying to figure out if the slightly cotton-mouthed singer, Werner Krabbe, has adopted what he guesses an American accent sounds like. I’m a fan of the echoey spelling-out of the title during the chorus. Some of the ramshackle guitar work reminds me vaguely of Pavement.


“Biff! Bang! Pow!”, The Creation


Freewheeling and infectiously catchy, but not nearly on par with, well ... you know, probably because the guitar spends most of the song curiously muted in favor of some crazed and essentially unnecessary barrroom piano. I was hoping that this would contain some bizarre pop-art sound effects, but, unfortunately, such was not the case.


DISC 3


“Your Body Not Your Soul”, Cuby & The Blizzards


After a (sort of) good night’s sleep, I’m ready to go again, and what better way to start a day with some stomping-tambourine-shaking dance action? This is pretty flawless. I was surprised to learn this band, too, was from the Netherlands. I guess ass-kicking, simplistic R&B transcends national boundaries.


“Cathy, Come Home”, The Twilights


Ugggh. Too chirpy, too peppy, which makes it particularly annoying in a way seldom heard today. It’s has some nice buried, rampaging fuzztone and flecks of sitar every once in a while, but I could say the same of the roughly contemporaneous, similarly session-player-rich “Who Is Doctor Who?” novelty single a friend put on a tape for me recently.


“Circles”, Les Fleur De Lys


Finally, an actual Who cover instead of a none-too-sly tribute version; interestingly, it was released to capitalize on a minor music-biz controversy while the original version was withdrawn and placed in legal limbo, thanks once again to Shel Talmy (this isn’t the sort of thing that happened in the case of US garage bands, the extent of whose proto-indie chicanery was issuing a soundalike Dylan record every once in a while).


“Get Down From The Tree (album version)”, The Matadors


This has some echo-slathered, bizarrely affected vocals (again, I first thought, Bowie-esque, until I realized the fact that the singer was Czechoslovakian probably had more to do with it than anything else) which don’t really work. I’m a fan, however, of the stuttering, nervy, almost proto-Dischord guitar-and-bass break that occurs for the first time about a minute in.


“Cry In The Night”, Q'65


A dark, nasty B-side to “The Life I Live,” it’s musically superior to that track; similar lyrical territory is covered, with an appropriate jokey near-nihilism.


“Changing The Colors Of Life”, Los Chijuas


This is the closest thing to a certain brand of slightly anguished, cathedral-organ psych-melodrama-pop that the US produced – which makes sense, given its Mexican origins – I’ve heard on this compilation so far. I pretty much love it, though the guitar “solo” gets pretty redundant.


“Social End Product”, The Bluestars


Wonderful. Cleverly snarled lyrical disaffection? Check. Flurry of stinging guitar work and murky, arpeggiated bass, including an unforgettable, brisk main riff? Fierce but minimal drums? Check. Utterly predictable but brilliant song structure (witness the “Ssssssss ... social end product!” break)? Check. It really doesn’t get any better than this.


“Crawdaddy Simone”, The Syndicats


After the last track, this queasy blend of ineffective faux-Daltrey machismo and inverted-mix unpleasantness doesn’t do much for me, though it has a certain B-movie-soundtrack camp appeal, and I love the too-trashy-for-words rave-up section, which really manages to sound like a sample from an Antioch Arrow live show overdubbed via Panasonic mini-cassette recorder. By the time the string-bending nightmare that ushers in its coda has begun, I’m honestly not too surprised to learn that Joe Meek was at the controls for this.


“Don't You Remember?”, The Sound Magics


Crisp and sultry guitar chime – like a far darker Byrds – propels this one (again from the Netherlands; I never knew they had such a productive scene) along nicely.


“It's My Pride”, The Guess Who


Wow, these guys used to be sort of awesome (but then again, “American Woman” is one of the best proto,cock,rock guilty pleasures I can think of from their dominant era). The rough-and-tumble, zigzagging bassline is an unexpected revelation.


“Magic Potion”, The Open Mind


I can easily picture this occasionally punishing song – which almost sounds like a poppier, Brit-infused MC5 – on the soundtrack to some UK bikers-and-zombies film. Someone clearly listened to their Dick Dale and Who records before recording the burst of Eastern-inflected, wah-laced peyote-nightmare solo.


“You're Driving Me Insane”, The Missing Links


Suitably primitivist (I’m guessing there are two chords at most employed here) and thrilling, especially the surges of disintegrating-speaker guitar histrionics. “You got your radio down too low!” is a great breaking-the-fourth-wall tactic.


“Who Dat? ”, The Jury


This is pretty silly and incomprehensible, but I like it in a difficult-to-explain way. The twangy singsong section is pure fun.


“A Midsummer's Night Scene”, John's Children


Wow. This leaves John’s Children’s other, relatively undistinguished offering in the dust. If only more languid psychedelia could manage to be as astonishingly unhinged and abstrusely apocalyptic. At times its muddled, tower-of-Babel qualities seem far more low-budget Zappa than Bolan.


“Listen To The Sky”, Sands


The ersatz “All You Need Is Love” intro is a misstep, and everything that follows is pleasant but generic until the acid-refracted World-War-II nostalgia – complete with guns and dive bombs! – segment of the song is ushered in, all unbelievably weird proto-Crimson dissonant Sturm und Drang that I can’t imagine received much airplay. I almost think I heard this in the final episode of The Prisoner, but I doubt it.


“How To Find A Lover”, The Mockingbirds


I wasn’t paying much attention to this song, but that was probably because the last left me reeling. It’s pretty ordinary, but has some tastefully employed, evocative (albeit in a low-budget way) reverb.


“Days Of The Broken Arrows”, The Idle Race


Given that within this song lie the seeds that germinated into the Electric Light Orchestra, you’d think it’d be all gentle fake-psychedelia, sloppy and wretched – and it is, more or less, until the drums finally come in and things lift off. It still manages to take a few wrong turns after that, though, which could be chalked up to Beatles-worship’s most tragic failing: over-ambition.


“By My Side”, The Elois


Crude, tense, and immensely powerful: an overamped blast of destructive brilliance that’s over all too soon.


“Path Through The Forest”, The Factory


The megaphone-vocals and sweeping, abstract melody combine to form one of the more fascinating psychedelic productions; it manages to still come off as hardly dated – in fact, rather forward-thinking – today, unlike the twee, San-Fran-inflected psych and pompous bellowing occasionally heard here that reminds me of Mort Garson’s unintentionally hilarious Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds LP.


“Love Hate Revenge”, Episode Six


Unrepentently fake raga-guitar work grafted onto an unrelated chorus; an overall contemptuous sloppiness kills this one.


“Pictures Of Matchstick Men”, The Status Quo


I’ve heard this grandiose epic before, and always vaguely disliked it. Nothing has changed, but there are worse tracks to be found here.


“The Train To Disaster”, The Voice


Hateful, cacophonous, and undeniable in its phantasmagoric pre-punk splendor (I’m willing to overlook some awful organ playing; it’s starting to replace the harmonica as my all-time least favorite implement of garage rock cliche). The Fall really should cover this, if they haven’t yet.


“Sad”, The (Australian) Playboys


This has the same chord progression as “Circles,” I think. As a result, I tend to evaluate it as rather weak.


“Slaves Time”, The Slaves


Austrian “Beat From Hell”? It’s certainly crude enough. I’m fascinated to learn that the group’s 16-year-old lead guitarist couldn’t read or write, and slept outdoors (is this pre-crust?). The class-struggle assessment of “We are better than you!” alone rates this as pretty classic. The Fall don’t need to cover this, because it already sounds enough like them; the fade-out rivals the Monks, which is no easy task.


“You Can Be My Baby (single version)”, The Red Squares


This is pretty wild, with its fairly unpredictable chord progression aided by some excellent drumming.


“I Wish I Was Five”, Scrugg


The intro sounds almost exactly like a brief interlude on We’re Only In It For The Money. The moody, longing aspect of what follows is almost wrecked by the inclusion of strings and at least one obvious wrong move (the nursery-rhyme melody, for example, but then there’s the inexplicable tempo shift at the end), but it manages to get by on pathetic charm. Sort of.


“Glendora”, The Downliners Sect


Quirky, rude, and swampy, with some brilliant untrained backup vocals that seem, like the youthful partygoers in the studio to provide crowd noise and interjections during old funk 45s, a bit confused about where to come in. I like the fact that it’s about a mannequin.


DISC 4


“Rosalyn”, The Pretty Things


I’m going right into the fourth disc. This is sort of ... eh, but the bashing drums are well-utilized, and the singer has undeniable personality. I still tend to see this band as a bit overrated, but perhaps I have yet to hear the right things.


“Come On”, The Atlantics


This doesn’t really seem to get going until the sheets of noise appear during its last third or so.


“The Madman Running Through The Fields”, Dantalion's Chariot


An inspired bassline, but pretty weedy. It makes me wish for something a bit meatier.


“How Does It Feel To Feel (U.S. single version)”, The Creation


Ask and ye shall receive: this is, granted, like many a slow-grind stomper in its day, a total “Wild Thing” rip-off, but it’s aided infinitely by its squeaky-wheel feedback and shattering drumming.


“I'm Just A Mops”, The Mops


Sheer madness from the self-proclaimed first psychedelic band in Japan, and probably my favorite song included here. “I don’t care of them! / So I am just a Mops!” go the lyrics, which are entertaining enough in a sweetly sick-of-it-all, Guitar Wolf sort of way (“When I come back to home / My mother says...”), yet the music is strong enough to catapult this far above novelty value, Cookie Monster laughs and all.


“Why Don't You Smile Now”, The Downliners Sect


This is kind of forgettable, lacking almost entirely in the personality that made their previous track on this box so weirdly endearing. Maybe I’m just zoning out. Let me grab a Dr. Pepper.


“Nothin'”, The Ugly Ducklings


Insouciant and easily among the most “garage”-y of the tracks included here.


“Break It All (U.S. single version), Los Shakers


The clear-voiced, infectious vocal seems to be the work of someone who’s just discovered rock, and something about this naivete makes this song wonderful in the same, near,innocent way as “It’s A Sin To Go Away” (which I think is my second-favorite Nuggets II track, if you’re curious).


“The Bitter Thoughts Of Little Jane”, Timon


Confusing as hell, this is a childish, disorienting, sub-“Eleanor Rigby” – but far more twisted – tale of a spiteful little girl that may be easily sung by either a man or a woman but is, I think, done by a man. I could personally have gone without hearing this, but who am I to judge?


“Touch”, The Outsiders


Oh, wait, I still tend to dislike harmonicas. The concise, muted, reverb-dappled guitar line is interesting, though, a welcome contrast to all the sloppy smash-it-up overplaying I’ve been exposing myself to lately (honestly, I think I’m going to listen to Kraftwerk for a week after this); so is the delicate, near-folk bridge, which really seems to make the harmonica blare seem all the less necessary.


“Vacuum Cleaner”, Tintern Abbey


Another curiously delicate and rather haunting song, one that excercises melody and restraint even though all the elements for a destroyer-of-worlds guitar assault are in place. I know I’ve heard this somewhere, quite possibly in another recent commercial.


“My Life”, Thor's Hammer


A snotty, hit-and-run Icelandic pre-punk basher that nonetheless allows plenty of room for melody amid all the feedback. Again, this sounds somehow far less dated than many of the songs here; is it because this band’s skewed take on the psychedelic rock idiom created something far more unique?


“Bad Little Woman”, The Wheels


Covered by the Shadows of Knight (?) on the first Nuggets, but their smoky, somewhat lackadaisically leering take on the song couldn’t nail the vocal spasms, keyboard drones, or frenetic (and downright Nation-of-Ulysses-esque) false climaxes; this is a record of almost unholy intensity, its peak moments made even more thrilling in their contrast to what surrounds them.


“No Presents For Me”, Pandamonium


I’m not too into this, especially the excursion into fake-Kinks amble (funny, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much Kinks-worship evident on this box as on the first Nuggets, possibly because they seemed far freakier in the US) in its nevertheless pleasant bridges. The psychedelic touches aren’t overdone, at least.


“Bat Macumba”, Os Mutantes


The serpentine guitar effects on this near-funk, fuzzed-to-death Brazilian stomper, another song I’d wager many outside the experience of this box have heard, are truly out of hand, and just about indescribable.


“Real Crazy Apartment", Winston's Fumbs


This title is awful. So is the band name. The song, though, is an amazing mess, a splatter-painting of appalling decadence overdone in the best possible Beyond the Valley of the Dolls mondo-swinger-travelogue manner. The amelodic, stumbling bridge is awfully clumsy, though, yet it adds immeasurably to the throbbing, mischievously stoned aura of it all.


“No More Now”, The Smoke (Nz)


Amateurishly threatening, and again sounding heavily infused with surf,rock guitar tactics. The overamped climax is great.


“No Good Without You”, The Birds


The bassline is really all that holds this together, but it’s snappy and the band comes off as a lot more coherent than many of their contemporaries.


“Kicks & Chicks”, The Zipps


Depraved, ridiculous, and absolutely godlike. I don’t have much else to say about this, except that you need to listen to it as soon as possible. The heavily-accented, world-weary perversity of the vocals and the sinister chord progression are a brilliant combination. I like the mispronounciations of “Kerouac” and “priest,” so I encourage you to listen for them (be forewarned, it might take more than a few spins).


“Dance Around The Maypole”, The Acid Gallery


A total, hideous dud. I couldn’t listen to this all the way through; hopefully a wall of distorted moogs and a guest solo by Clyde Stubblefield didn’t come in, etc.


“Get Yourself Home”, The Fairies


The reverb may be a tad overdone here, I opine. The Bo Diddley stomp of the chord progression is truly great, though.


“I'm Your Witchdoctor”, The Chants R&B


I hated this until 1:48 in. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but it’s definitely an inspired touch.


“But You'll Never Do It Babe”, The Boots


I wonder if Wire heard this? It starts out sounding eerily like them, only, you know, a good deal more cheerful.


“One Third”, The Majority


Pretty harmonies and a classy touch of piano add a lot to this, but it never lifts off for me, really.


“Flight From Ashiya”, Kaleidoscope


I’m with the author of Rhino’s liner notes; this is one of the most confusing story-songs I’ve ever heard, but perhaps that’s the point.


“Here Come The Nice”, The Small Faces


This is awfully disappointing, especially given all the myth-making that’s surrounded this band (maybe what I heard and liked was just Faces material?) but I suspect its raison d’etre is solely as a silly speed-dealer joke. Please tell me that there’s a backing chorus of women on this track.


“It's My Fault”, The Rattles


A nicely simplistic flurry of early-60s guitar pop recorded by Germans (I’m awfully sorry to see there aren’t any future Faust members on this track; maybe a Krautrock Nuggets III is in the works? Actually, I don’t think I’d wish that on my worst enemy, given the Amon Düül I’ve heard), it works for me. Wow, we’re nearly through, aren’t we?


“When The Alarm Clock Rings”, Blossom Toes


I wasn’t initially impressed, but the entry of a “You Shook Me”-styled moog bassline and some absolutely outlandish orchestral garnishes won me over in their sheer absurdity. This kind of stuff, folks, is the reason Sgt. Pepper may not have been the best idea. But then I remember that it did usher forth a spirit of sonic adventurousness, which is of course both a very good and a very bad thing. Thankfully, this era seemed to contain more good than bad.


By: Chris Smith
Published on: 2002-07-15
Comments (1)
 

 
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