RENTACROWD - Len Price 3 (Wicked Cool)
For the record, there’s no one in the Len Price 3 named Len, Price, or Len Price, but there are three of ‘em. From the sound and front wrapper of their second album “Rentacrowd,” though, you’d swear there was someone named Townshend, Moon, or maybe even Weller wandering dazed amongst the rubble of smashed guitars, drums, and amps.
Anyone with the common sense and good taste to cozy up with the often unstable discographies of The Who and The Jam won’t have to scramble much for reference points once the album-opening title track cues up, the genetic codes of “Substitute,” “In the City,” “I Can’t Reach You,” and “I Can’t Explain” cracked, DNA strands untwisted and then reassembled in the wrong order. In this case, “wrong” means “right.”
The touchstones are beyond obvious unless you’ve recently awoken from a 40-year coma or are young enough to believe Elastica actually wrote that riff in “Connection”: early Who, back when they were more concerned with dodging shrapnel and punching each others’ lights out than rock operas, Meher Baba, or festival seating bans, and the first three Jam albums. You know, the ones before Paul Weller came up with the bright idea of ditching that red Rickenbacker, two-tone shoes, and peg leg trousers and exchanging them for ski sweaters, blue-eyed soul, and a twelve-string acoustic.
The pace these guys maintain over the course of “Rentacrowd” will leave your head spinning like a handful of Aqua Dots, songs like “If I Ain’t Got You,” “Julia Jones,” “Sailor’s Sweetheart,” “Girl Like You,” and “No Good” demonstrating the band is still in thrall to the redemptive powers of a good old-fashioned three-chord knock-up, guitars feeding back and bursting wide open in phaser-gun blasts and drums pounding an expressway through your skull. There’s nothing fancy about the production – by Jim Reilly along with the band – sparse, stark, and fully in your face.
There’s a few songs here which don’t really turn my crank much. “Mesmer” and “Australia” ring of the type of lackluster, mopey tangents Ray Davies use to occasionally and unexplainably go off on circa “The Village Green Preservation Society,” the band in a holding pattern catching their collective breath before the next impassioned rave-up.
Although naysayers may gripe that the band don’t have an original idea in their 30-something heads, I say if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. And while there are sure to be some others who can’t figure out if these guys are serious or merely taking the piss out of the British Invasion, there’s no denying they take the stale stance on simple, Yardbirds-styled banality and burn it like a brassiere. Let’s face it: there’s nothing truly new on the planet when it comes to rock and roll and to the Len Price 3’s eternal credit, they embrace that tenet wholeheartedly and don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Or even force you to think, for that matter. Good on ‘em! - Clark Paull
CHINESE BURN - The Len Price 3 (Laughing Outlaw Records)
I perused an article by Richard Neville the other day – I say perused because I find myself feeling physically ill whenever I read Neville’s self-indulgent and patronising assessments of today’s popular cultural and political trends. Neville, for the uninitiated, co-edited the notorious Oz magazine in London in the late 1960s (in concert with other Australian expatriates) and was tried for obscenity at the turn of that decade. These days Neville is just as likely to turn up on a midday variety program moaning about how young people don’t understand the political and social legacy he and his middle class baby boomer friends created in those crazy 60s. And don’t get me started on Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes or Clive James ...
What does that have to do with the debut long player from English garage-power pop band The Len Price 3? Absolutely nothing – except that the 3’s deep and abiding love for the riffs and sonic aesthetic of the 1960s demonstrates that the musical legacy of the 1960s is better than any profane editorial composed by Neville in his youth. With 15 songs in just over half an hour this is a ruthlessly efficient and effective demonstration of 60s music.
The opening track “Christian In the Desert” lives and breathes on that classic Kinks riff that underpins “All Day and All of the Night” – not to mention plenty of other Kinks and lesser 60s tracks – with some brief guitar flourishes and a jungle beat that James Baker might just award with a mop topped nod. The title track is happy psych-garage pop that’s crying out for a brightly coloured ink blot video clip to aid visual consumption – and it’s all over in 1 minute and 22 seconds. “Lai-ha Lam” is a bouncing, grooving romantic ditty for a girl from Vietnam (could you imagine that topic for an American garage tune at the height of the Vietnam War?); “Viva Viva” is paradoxically equal parts pop and sweet smelling trash – the lyrics seemed to be saying nothing, but damned if I really cared enough to focus on the words over the
“The Last Hour” is all smiles and happiness, a leaf taken straight out of The Byrds just about the time the friction of rubbing egos started to take its toll. “Swine Fever” could be the backing track to a car chase in one of the cartoon cameos in The Banana Splits while Amsterdam balances delicately between staccato guitar hook and flourishing chords (a restrained version of Crank’s sorely underappreciated “Theme From Crank”) while the lyrics paint a rosy picture of Holland’s most notorious city – and what’s that evil laugh in the middle of the song trying to say? That a city legendary for legalised cannabis and sex shows has a seedy underside?
“Comanche!” is the only cover on the album, an early use of the simple three chord pattern that’s been used more times than “the American people” in US political speeches. “Chatham Town Spawns Devils” is more danceable fun; “Hard Times Forever” is the Beatles about the time they realised they could blend their commercially successful pop sensibility with something a bit more eclectic – which would ultimately lead them down the road to “Revolver”. “Shirley Crabtree” is a track quite possibly written by Brian Wilson and handed over to some unscrupulous American song trader and now finally released for public consumption. “She’s Lost Control” is little more than bubblegum emotional angst pop – but if I could even come close to writing a tune like this in the midst of emotional turmoil I’d be a very happy man. After the frenetic nihilistic happiness “Medway Eye” “Heavy Atmosphere” makes sure the band gets in at least one “Louie Louie” riff before the album rounds out with some Herman Hermits’ style adolescent romantic analysis in “Fire in My Heart”.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – The Len Price 3 imitate every good sound that’s come out of the 1960s, in the sincerest possible manner. The fact they’re excellent songwriters with an ear for the best in catchy tunes is in even better.- Patrick Emery
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