ON WITH THE SHOW - The Muggs (Self-released)
For anyone who’s been paying attention, the story of Muggs’ keyboardist Tony Denardo facing down the grim reaper back in 2001 after a stroke
that robbed him of the use of his right arm has grown legs (no pun intended), and while it remains a great read - forever branding Denardo as a guy who fears no evil while walking through the valley of the shadow of death – it fades further into the rearview mirror with each large, thick, punishing, smoky blues riff these guys come up with.
No slam on what The Muggs bring to the table, but it beggars belief the self-proclaimed “ugliest band in the world” were not only chosen as finalists for Fox’s “The Next Great American Band,” but hung around for as long as they did, suffering withering comments about everything from guitarist Danny Methric’s vocals (pitched somewhere in a
nearly-unimaginable patch between Ozzy Osbourne, Geddy Lee, and Steve Marriott) to their doomed attempt to submit to the musical stylings of Elton John.
Maybe no one else around here wants to sound this real and simple and innocent, but “On With the Show” is just about the last thing you’d expect coming out of Detroit these days as the hype-nourished garage scene flickers its last dying spark; spacey, fuzzy, distorted, and disorienting but full of physical and nervous energy. Other bands may promise a revolution, but The Muggs see the future and it looks a lot like the ‘70’s.
It’s a tangled, buzzing, gnarled mess of twisted cables, sobbing, cataclysmic Methric licks, Denardo’s rumbling bottom end, and Matt Rost’s sure-footed rhythms, all three fully committed to power, craft, and chemistry. “All Around You” sounds like a Black Sabbath outtake circa “Master of Reality,” Methric doing his best to create a subterranean, start/stop vibration ala Tony Iommi, wallowing in primordial energy. “Slow Curve” and “Curbside Constellation Blues” are dominated by a live, jamming feel and the sound of the engine room melting into a pool of lumpen metal.
“On With the Show” blurs hard music and blues categories in clouds of dust, smoke, and velour retro-crush, The Muggs in planetary alignment with the meaning of life and refusing to believe the 21st century is in full swing, picking through a junkpile of sonic touchstones which may have the over-50 crowd flashing back through a retro haze to Cobo Arena or the Michigan Palace, circa 1971, and creating something entirely their own from the spare parts.
You can buy your ticket to ths show here. Enter at your own risk.- Clark Paull
THE MUGGS – The Muggs (Times Beach)
Funny thing… It seems like having a side project on the back burner is almost a prerequisite for membership in Detroit’s Paybacks. Former engine room Mike Latulippe and John Szymanski moonlighted in The Hentchmen – or was it the other way around – for years before eventually tiring of dividing their attention between two national touring acts, bidding Wendy Case and guitarist Danny Methric a fond and from all accounts amicable adios.
The long list of rough and tumble Detroit bands that have made their stand in a burg best known for twisting iron and steel and as a riskier place to call home than Northern Ireland is a long one, bordering on cliché, but Methric’s Muggs just may be king of the hill when it comes to tough.
Together since February 2000, the band’s plans were temporarily shitcanned when bassist Tony DeNardo was felled by a stroke in September 2001 which nearly rendered him ineligible for the census, resulting in paralysis on his right side and robbing him of the ability to speak. Sort of makes that
broken finger Jack White suffered a few years back while cruising like a starry-eyed schoolboy with Rene Zellweger look like a bug bite, eh?
Refusing to replace DeNardo, Methric and drummer Matt Rost (ex-Immortal Winos of Soul) bided their time in a number of local outfits before a fundraiser at the Cadieux Café on the city’s east side scared up the funds necessary for DeNardo to travel to southern California and receive daily physical therapy while staying with his father. Enter local scene renaissance man Matt Smith (Outrageous Cherry, Volebeats among others), who put a bug in DeNardo’s ear by intimating that he could play his bass lines on a piano with his left hand and, one Fender Rhodes Mark I and a lot of practice, sweat, and persistence later, the result is a boisterous, magnificently simple-minded slab of noise.
“The Muggs” (coincidentally or not, Times Beach is also the Hentchmen’s label) is nothing less than unvarnished bliss for fans of hair-shaking riffola and while Ann Arbor Paper is heralding Methric as Detroit’s Angus Young, a cozier point of reference for us aging hipster doofuses may be Humble Pie or The James Gang, Methric sounding eerily like Joe Walsh on “Monster,” which takes Walsh’s “Time Out” apart and puts the pieces back together all wrong.
I know I’m dating myself horribly here with this term, but at their very core, The Muggs are a power trio, with the emphasis on POWER. They’ve created an insular world for themselves in which nothing much seems to matter past, oh, 1975, when the planet was stalked by boogie hammerheads who aimed for the cheap seats like Frank Marino, Steve Marriott, and Mike Pinera.
At its very core, “The Muggs” is blues based, with verses setting up extended guitar workouts from Methric which build in intensity, rhythmically and sonically, hit at gut level, and bring to mind everything that used to be great about arena rock shows at places like Cobo Hall and the Michigan Palace back in the 70’s save for the thick blanket of dope smoke up in the rafters and slick layer of vomit underfoot.
Methric seems to be exorcising demons with an attack that flows from furious metal (gritty album opener “Need Ya Baby”) to psychedelic grooves (the soaring, spacey “Underway”) to outright blues thuggery (“Should’ve Learned My Lesson”) and anything in between, like lava down the side of a volcano, culminating in “Doc Mode,” where he’s finally dragged away kicking and screaming, presumably in shackles.
Those comfortable with primal Detroit lodestones like The Stooges, MC5, and Amboy Dukes should be able to spot DNA traces of all three in The Muggs, although with an extra chromosome at random places along the strand, and despite Methric's pedigree with the Paybacks, he's a long way from the garage here..- Clark Paull
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