PHONIC SOULS - The Gimmies (Svengirly/Big Stomp/MGM)
Brave souls be they that attempt a cover of "New Race", but Japan's The Gimmies pull it off, after a fashion. Vocalist-guitarist Sora Shitty ain't no Rob Younger, but it's a faithfully-done piece of fun, and one of two covers on "Phonic Souls", their debut Australian album released locally to coincide with their first Down Under tour.
On first listen, it's the Radio Birdman song, rather than the take on Randy Newman's "Have You Seen My Baby" (itself one of the great covers by the early Flamin' Groovies), that gives the best sense of where The Gimmies are coming from. A few spins later and both those songs are a convenient point of convergence. The Groovies/Birdman connection was always more about the fact they were both fans of traditional rock and roll in its purest forms, rather than Sire labelmates. The Japanese are renowned for absorbing Western culture, and rock and roll reference points like these point to the fertile ground that The Gimmies are mining.
On balance, they do it well, but there are reservations. The opening bombardment of "Stick It Around The Bend" and "Alternative Mainstream" hits hard, but also threatens to stamp The Gimmies as a band that wants to beat every song to a pulp with an unmitigated fury. Cutting to the chase, the production sounds like The Gimmies waltzed into the studio and turned everything up into the red. Parts of "Phonic Souls" are so in love with distortion that you need to play this through a pair of studio quality 12" JBLs to hear what's going on.
Don't even dream of spinning it on a shitty Walkman.
I'm a fan of lo-fi, but it has to be said that the bluster chokes much of the melody. Of course, your own results may vary. The hand of DKT/MC5 bassist Michael Davis is credited for the mastering, and it certainly sounds like he had his work cut out for him.
No doubting The Gimmies' spirit though, and I'll bet they cut it live. On this disc, the more musical moments like "Baby's Inside", the uncoiling lead guitar of "Lies in Your Eyes" and the (almost poppy) closer, "Time of Gold", save the day. There's no less energy - the dynamics are pretty impressive - but sometimes even freight trains have more impact on the ears when they slow down. – The Barman
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