Steve Wilson. On music.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mickey - s/t (Hozac Records)

 Mickey is a rockin’ little band from Chicago on the sweet indie label, Hozac. Mickey rocks. I’ve seen some video on these guys. And let’s just say they’d make a helluva band for your next house party. Unless you own the house. If it’s your property, ya might wanna think twice.

But hell, get these Mickey boys in the studio and they clean up real good, without losing any of their essential piss and vinegar. You see, Mickey has triple-hyphenated power. They ain’t just pop-punk. Or power-pop. Nosiree Bob, they are power-pop-punk (with a touch of glam, too). The punk part is easy; mix two parts energy with equal parts don’t give a shit. The pop part? Well, that takes a little finesse. And combining the two is harder to pull off than you might think, especially without one “P’ short-sheeting the other. And then to do it all with rawk authority (i.e.  p-o-w-e-r). Not easy. The Buzzcocks did it. The Vibrators. Undertones.  Add Mickey to the list, kids.

Mickey in club splendor
In other words, they are as Marc Bolan sang in “Bang a Gong” – ‘dirty sweet.’ But the T.Rex influence is just the beginning. On their self-titled debut album Mickey’s musical concepts are almost all Seventies derived. They play with the unselfconscious glee of a bunch of kids who might be prepared to make a distinction between Kiss and the Dead Boys for the purposes of rock critical conversation, but they don’t worry themselves about it too much.

Given that their abiding pop sensibilities are gilded with punk snarl, Mickey’s songs are about young lust, young love, and defiance of authority. Like the Shangri-Las. Or the Dead Boys; it’s a continuum, people. It’s boilerplate shit, but the band’s genius is in their execution. Singer Mac Blackout favors a just slightly curdled sincerity that alludes to The Boys (and the Beach Boys, for that matter). Hey, they even ask “do you wanna dance … you and I” in “Dance,” a song whose glam roots are showing –  not only referencing the Beach Boys (via Bobby Freeman), but flashing major Chinn-Chapman roots – in other words this track sounds more than a bit like the Sweet.

The snot-nosed romance of the Dictators also looms over the Mickey oeuvre, ladies and gents, especially in “Rock and Roll Dream” (‘I don’t care anymore I’m on a Rocket to Russia’) and “Kids Crazy in Love.” The former features a nifty lift from a Del Shannon tune, and both songs hint at the Dead Boys if they had an infatuation with the Bay City Rollers; and I’m not saying they didn’t. Here, and throughout, guitarists Dirty D and T. C. Starrchild crank out the sharp guitar action, equal parts Mick Ronson (and Ralphs), Andy Scott, Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Thunders.

T. Rex? Oh, they’re here – big time. You can hear it in the prancing strut of “She’s So Crazy” and “My Lady,” a song all the more touching for it’s hammy sincerity. Drummer Christmas Woods goes a trifle apeshit here. He does that plenty. Like a less gifted Clem Burke, the boy never met a fill he didn’t like. But it’s his Moon-ish, uninhibited crashing about that helps keep Mickey from sounding too studio tamed.

It’s Mickey’s balance between explosive elements and attention to arrangement details that really makes them stand out compared to a million other pop-punk bands. Mickey’s unabashed affection for melody and sentiment, alongside punk power riffage, puts them in the same mold as the Vibrators, Boys and Undertones (to name a few) – bands who at one point or another took shit for being too pop. Now, a few decades removed from punk without melody (most of American hardcore, by the way)– who’s the joke on, anyway?

More name checks? Well there are darn sure shades of the Real Kids and the Ramones all over this music. Both actually on “Baby We’re Gold,” the oh so romantic (these guys are really pretty lovey-dovey) burner that winds Mickey’s debut to a close.

Ultimately, Mickey will remind you of the first time you heard the Ramones. Their unabashed slam-up of pop and punk is that fresh. This album is by no means over-produced, but it skillfully avoids the mid-fi default clichés stifling so many band young garage bands. It sound raw and polished at the same time - an aesthetic fitting, you know, power-pop-punk.

Reverberating: 8.5


Troy Thrills said...

This is an awesome review, you pretty much nailed it. even got the Del Shannon reference. So many reviewers are lazy and don't do their homework, thanks a lot for this! Keep it up!


sjw said...

Thanks, Troy. I humbly concur with your opinion of most rock writers. Culls, the lot of them. But I appreciate very much your kind words.