CRIMINAL HISTORY REVISITED – The Joneses (Full Breach Kicks)
It’s no big secret the New York Dolls nearly destroyed my life. If my parents were still here, they’d certainly verify it, fully convinced the ruination of Western civilization was in full swing and the moral fiber of American teenagers was in deep jeopardy after my sister tugged their sleeves toward a full-page Creem ad for their first album. Someday she’ll pay…
But something inside my head switched on – or maybe off – when I first saw them staring back at me in stark black and white from the racks at Dearborn Music, bored-shitless-prom-queens-turned-drug-trollops, doomed junkie idiots beaming with wrecked rock-star elegance, more idle teens than teen idols. Ever since, I’ve been a sucker for just about anyone who can make a guitar sound like several household appliances throwing tantrums or a woman in curlers beating her kid in a supermarket or look like they’ve been chewed on by wild dogs in a vacant lot down on skid row. Hanoi Rocks, London Quireboys, or Freddy Lynxx and the Jet Boys, anyone?
The Joneses operated in the same distant quadrant of the galaxy as the Dolls, more piqued by junkiedom, boredom, desperate love, death, destruction, and mental illness than any earnest concern for social issues. No worried men with worried songs here. Although they may have been riding late freight by the time they crawled out from under that rock, not behind it, and despite the fact some of these riffs are old enough to collect Medicare, this self-conscious bit of career consolidation (originally released long about the time New Coke was introduced and now spruced up with bonus tracks) from flame keepers Full Breach Kicks is packed to bursting with guitars that somehow manage to simultaneously shoot for the moon AND the gutter and dance you around until you’re worn out.
A quick scan of the track list and it’s obvious nothin’ to do isn’t just an attitude for The Joneses, but a fact. “Pill Box,” “Criminals,” “Fix Me,” “White and Pretty,” “Ms. 714,” and “She’s So Filthy” don’t exactly brim with let’s-live-for-today optimism, but I’ve always thought happiness was overrated. None of that matters anyway, because all 24 tracks here are bagged buzzsaws that rock heroically and loosely, Jeff Drake and a rogue’s gallery of six-pack minstrels defiantly crazy and apparently loving every minute of it. There are blazing, bastardized licks aplenty - heisted from Chuck Berry via Johnny Thunders - diabolical, droning string bends, and snotty, detached vocals promising a hustle, a fix, loaves, fishes, or a quick trip to nowhere. And just when you think you have these guys figured out, they pull out some outlaw twang and Sun Records yee-hah from who knows where with “I Wanna Buy You a Ring,” a truly-twisted “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and a swinging “Route 66.” If Elton John ever hears their cover of “Crocodile Rock,” he’ll either stroke out or sport wood.
“Criminal History Revisited” is the perfect soundtrack for a night of teeth-grinding, heart-palpitating, Class 1 narcotic hoovering, the caffeine rush after the crash, and searching for your wallet and keys after you wake up on the sidewalk. I’m STILL drooling like Brian Wilson playing piano in an indoor sandbox. - Clark Paull
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CRIMINALS/TITS AND CHAMPAGNE - The Joneses (Full Breach Kicks)
The two Joneses’ tracks (“Pill Box” and “Graveyard Rock”) wedged into 1982’s hardcore punk compilation “Someone Got Their Head Kicked In” always seemed as hopelessly out of place as Warren Beatty at a Promise Keepers convention; chattering, messy, gone-to-seed racket fortified by edge-blurring anesthesia - in tablet and liquid form - from a bunch of Hollywood street rodents entirely oblivious to the tuneless, nihilistic, pseudo-political, and overly-serious manifestos being churned out by the follicly-challenged right in their own backyard.
Of course it’s more likely they just didn’t care, perfectly content to play loud, fast music with loud, fast words about boobs, dope, and liquor rather than make any effort at some sort of grand social statement. Regardless, you could tap your foot to both songs (and most anything they ever wrote), but slam dancing to ‘em was out of the
Although they shared a zip code with a living dead army of hair farmers like Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, and Ratt, The Joneses seemed more consumed with sonics than haberdashery or cosmetics, drawing their inspiration from a wellspring of 70’s scarf-and-opiate dandies like Aerosmith, the New York Dolls, and the Stones, with a touch of oily rockabilly thrown in for texture and reference, everything spit up, revved up, hopped up, and torn up, then cast aside and forgotten. They got in, got out, and moved on with what appeared to be only a tenuous grasp of focus or direction.
And therein lies part of the beauty of this house of cards, as this two-fer of 80’s EP’s demonstrates. That and the guitars of Jeff Drake, Steve Houston, and Greg Kuehn screaming for relief – but mostly just screaming – strings scraped and scratched with picks, exploding and feeding back like fireworks, then bent, strangled, and wrestled into submission. At times, it sounds as if they’re making it all up as they go along but as anyone who’s ever tried to emulate what Johnny Thunders brought to the table in terms of sound or attitude will tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks.
What seals the deal for The Joneses is Drake’s knack for coming up with hooks that share an uneasy truce with the buzzing guitar ruckus, like “White and Pretty,” “Bad Attitude,” “I Wanna Buy You a Ring,” and “Ms. 714,” surely the most beautiful song ever about Quaaludes. Imagine The Heartbreakers with the occasional cameo from Jerry Lee Lewis, Ian McLagan, or Stu Stewart on barrelhouse piano and you’re nearly there.
Showoffs? Probably, but the covers push the proceedings completely over-the-top; a snotty, flash, defiant, irreverent “Crocodile Rock, a greasy “Your Cheatin’ Heart” an entire legion of cow punks would sacrifice a testicle to have arranged, and a fairly straight (at least for these guys) pass at “Route 66” that moves, shakes, and swings like Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci at the Piazzale Loreto.
Inspired by a reissue campaign by flame keepers Full Breach Kicks, Drake and Kuehn have returned from years in the wilderness, bent on dragging the brand name through the gutter at least one more time with a few reunion gigs. Here’s hoping for a new studio album. - Clark Paull
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