Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Runaways (their first record reviewed)

published in Sounds

Rock'n'roll has always
been the domain of the ignorant, the immature, the idiot. It's not, let's face it, the most advanced musical form around in terms of cerebral stimulation, but there's a certain undeniable satisfaction to be derived from a particularly brash bass line, a sudden Chuck Berry lick, from those damn dumb drums. Intellectuals can't rock. Or, as The Runaways might put it: Brains suck!

Noted Hollywood hypester Kim Fowley has gathered together these nubile young females, each absolutely guaranteed to be sixteen (one exception: the lead guitarist is an old maid of seventeen), each absolutely guaranteed to play her own instrument. He's been flooding the pop journals with juicy little tidbits, assembling an image for The Runaways as the girls in your history class who could never stay awake because they'd been out until three the night before. Sex! Drugs! Beer!

Fowley's publicity overkill is almost certain to result in the type of backlash that nearly swamped the careers of both Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith last year, with program directors, rock critics, radio deejays and the public lining up arm-in-arm cha-cha-chanting "Hype!" Which is kind of unfortunate because when all considerations of package and product and pimp are over, this is great strong rock'n'roll. Ok, so the album does sound like it was recorded in a galvanized garbage can (Fowley produced) and the playing is unspectacular but it works nevertheless. It takes a certain degree of naivetee to make rock'n'roll and The Runaways are nothing if not genuinely enthusiastically naive. The Who may have a hard time keeping a straight face while doing "My Generation" these days but when Cherie Currie shrieks "Her life was saved by rock'n'roll," (from Lou Reed's "Rock And Roll"), there's no doubt she believes it. It may be dumb, but so what?

Most of the album consists of single-sized punchers with titles like "Cherry Bomb," (the band's logo carries a cherry, just in case you missed the point), "Thunder," and "You Drive Me Wild," most of them underscored with orgasmic moans. The album's capper though, is a seven minute rock epic entitled "Dead End Justice" that, if nothing else, will put Springsteen's more dramatic yarns in a new light:
"Where am I?"
"You're in a cheap, rundown teenage jail, that's where!"
"Oh my God!"

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