GENTLEMEN LETTING OFF STEAM - Good Time Charlies (Zero Control)
Calling yourself The Good Time Charlies could be as risky as turning up to a job interview saying you’re focused on outcomes, brandishing a list of personal key performance objectives as long as your arm and spouting all the best modern corporate jargon bullshit you learnt from that $7 personal development pop psychological treatise you saw in the sale bin at the local book store. You’ve made the big call, the company has swallowed it but when the crunch comes, you’ve got nothing beyond the rhetoric and some hastily constructed excuses.
Haiing from the UK, The Good Time Charlies are, contrary to the above scenario (which reflects my daily existence more than anything on the CD), genuinely good time guys. “Gentlemen Letting Off Steam” - check out the album cover art for one of the best title+artwork combinations in recent memory - is simple stuff: just rock’n’roll with a garage inflection, but it hits the spot with a sincerity that warms the cockles of your heart like a bottle of micro-brewed stout on a cold winter’s evening.
“Gone With the Wind” opens the album in the best possible tone – chunky garage riff, nihilistic lyrics (“I don’t give a damn, see you later”) and a guitar solo that spirals like those 1970s drawing sets that provided so much entertainment in a world free from PlayStation and on-line games. I’d like to see the band play “Big Gay Elvis” live somewhere in Memphis, partly to dance like a mad fuck, and partly to see the reaction of any good ol’ boys propped at the bar. The literary gist of “Rock Star” is fairly easy to guess, and the music itself is the comfortable rock sound that Australian band The Casanovas appear to have settled on. “Beach 2” is less rock than powerpop, the type of song that The Stems were always capable of writing, and which the discerning rock world wanted more of around the time the band itself (originally) imploded.
“You Know I Know” is catchy like the Sunnyboys always are (although the vocals seem to drag slightly in contrast to the sparkling beat and riff) while “Steal My Girlfriend” has the caveman stomp classically exploited by Le Hoodoo Gurus (and, again, the lyrics fairly well speak for themselves). “Hot Tub” rides on the back of a growling riff, a piano solo as elaborate as Pete Townshend’s one note solo in “I Can See For Miles” and a set of lyrics that makes Motley Crue seem subtle in their overtures to the fairer sex.
“I Like You” is so dumb, so stupid, so simple it’s almost perfect – the song that Richie, Ralph and Potsie would’ve sung at Arnold’s if Happy Days had been set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s rather than Milwaukee in the Eisenhower years. “Pie Shop Locator” is the sole instrumental on the album, a flesh crawling take on the Shadows, demonstrating that the Good Time Charlies have something beyond air brushed observations on how to pick up chicks in an ego-enhancing car. “Porn Collection” bounces around like the proverbial inflated balloon at the beach (a metaphor that, upon closer examination, says a bit about the narrative played out in the song itself), and “Asshole Magnet” is an anthem we can all subscribe to – as well as the simple Trashmen riff and rifling guitar solo delivered mid-song.
“Killing Rock’n’Roll” takes the ubiquitous “[insert most recently discovered ‘rock’ band] is going to save rock’n’roll” and stands it on its head, taking a careful aim at the plethora of soul destroying activities available to children that have the potential to distract them from enjoying the many and varied pleasures of rock’n’roll. “Everyone Fancies You” isn’t the best song on the album, and reminds me a lot of the various bands that bobbed up briefly in 1992 trying to absorb some of the money being thrown around by giddy major label executives who’d been instructed by head office to get them some of this grunge action. Thankfully it’s a brief aberration, as “My Kind of Girl” is back to the Stems-like garage-pop simplicity the Good Time Charlies do so well. The last track “Achtung Spitfire” is part Batman cover, part cover of that Eric Clapton song that turned up as the theme song to “Not Necessarily the News”, the very funny American sketch comedy show of the 1980s that featured the now famous Rich Hall.
The CD includes five tracks from the band’s demo sessions (“The Shed Demos”). This material is lighter than the other tracks on the CD, indulging the band’s love of the catchy pop song. The opening track, “Pop Tart” takes as its inspiration the same Batman guitar riff that cropped up in “Achtung Spitfire”, while “Hot Fudge” is sweet and homely like an apple pie cooked using the power from John Spittles’ best southern rock guitar. “Pop Song” is predictably catchy, the sort of tune Tom Verlaine could’ve written if he hadn’t make it is quest in life to be the enigmatic poet whose personal presence is less attractive than his artistic output. Finally, there’s more pleasant power pop with “Behave”, the lyrics representative of the quest for identity that plagues teenagers, and teenagers at heart.
Like the best rock’n’roll there’s nothing pretentious about The Good Time Charlies – no weird time signatures, no lumbering orchestral arrangements or obtuse lyrical expositions – and out of 21 songs on the album, only two make it past the three-minute mark. The Good Time Charlies are up for a good time, and perfect company for when shit’s getting you done and you’re only interested in rocking out. The world needs plenty of that these days. - Patrick Emery
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