KOSHER BOOGIE - Very Ape (Alive Records)
I guess it's possible that this band's name is a reference to the Nirvana song "Very Ape", which itself contains indubitable lyrical references to the Neil Young "Rust Never Sleeps" duo of tunes ("My My Hey Hey" and "Hey Hey My My"). Further lyrical references to those songs would turn up again (and for the final time of course) in Cobain's suicide letter, but now I'm just getting maudlin and this album is anything but...

No, this album isn't anything to do with grunge either, but I was just struck by the possible association. Obviously they too think that it's better to burn out than it is to rust.

Aw man, is this ever the big, loud rawk experience! Forget your Hives and your Flaming Sideburns and your Cato Salsa Experience and all those other "new garage" Scandi bands you've been listening to recently (well, maybe not the Flaming Sideburns, they're pretty hot too). Very Ape hark back to the meaty, beaty, big and bouncy greats of the earlier waves of Scandi rock, like the seemingly immortal Nomads, still out there in the garage making glorious noise twenty years on, and Union Carbide Productions.

Lately Sweden seems to have developed a plentiful supply of bands like this: Silverbullit (a.k.a. Citizen Bird in the U.S. apparently), Mazarine Street, Mother Superior (no, not Henry Rollins' backing band)... Not that you'd know it from listening to commercial radio around here needless to say.

Yeah, you read me right, Sweden. Long before they were responsible for ABBA, clinically photographed pornography and IKEA furniture, the Swedes were best known to the civilized world as rampaging vikings and obviously some of that barbarous ferocity still lurks at the bottom of the gene pool.

In Scandinavia in general and in Sweden in particular many bands have adopted a "year zero" approach to rock. For the garage bands, it's still 1968, just before the emergence of Sgt Pepper; for the hard rock bands, their zero year is 1972, with the Stooges' "Funhouse" on every turntable and not even a hint on the horizon of the looming multiple musical blights of hair metal, disco and the Eagles.

In those now seemingly innocent bygone days, rock was simple and hard and played at full volume till late into the night. Fuck the neighbours and fuck the local council's new noise pollution officer too. Rock was a way of life and all the future you were ever likely to need. Until one morning when we all woke up to find that the pod people had taken over under cover of darkness and were now making all the programming decisions for all the radio stations. Then along came MTV and we were really fucked.

Suddenly rock was about theatrical gestures, the right haircut and clothes that you saw in the pages of overseas magazines (though they were never going to look as good on you and anyway, who wants to wear that shit). Very Ape are part of the spontaneous, grass roots movement to take back rock'n'roll from the poseurs, the trenoids and the marketing trolls and restore it to the genuine enthusiasts: the plain, the marginalized, the belligerent and the socially inept.

Having said that, some of these tracks do lean more toward the flasher Backyard Babies/Hellacopters style of rock spectacle (or at least proto-soundtrack thereto), so I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of commercial success if the breaks should fall their way in the future.

In the meantime "Kosher Boogie" kicks off with the driving "This Close To Your Fire", actually more "Machine Head" era Deep Purple than the Stooges (I'll betcha these guys could reel off a quick cover of "Smoke On The Water" if you asked 'em), but built on a rockin' riff nevertheless. This is followed by the title track, which became one of my favourites after the first few playings; part Grand Funk Railroad bombast, part MC5 swagger and yeah, maybe an echo of Space Truckin' Deep Purple, adding up to a very satisfying all round rock experience.

Next up is "In This City"; sorta Kiss meets Blue Cheer, with the grease paint winning out. Then the band reveals a hitherto unsuspected soft side with "Falling Away". Ah yes, just when you thought power ballads had finally had their day, here they come again. For my money, power ballads begin and end with "Love Hurts" by Nazareth, a band otherwise unremarkable except for the fact that the one and only time I ever saw them play live (just prior to "Hair of the Dog") they proved to be the palest, shallowest, most unoriginal and least talented Led Zep imitation you could ever imagine. And "Love Hurts" was an Everly Brothers cover anyway.
Coming hard on the heels of "Falling Away", "Don't Search My Records" seems like that breath of cool mint freshness so often promised in toothpaste commercials (even if I do think I detect a hint of an Elton John riff in the intro). It may not plug my cavities, but it sure put a smile on my dial.

"Death Is a Detail" leans more toward the soul side and reminds me strongly, both vocally and musically, of early Mazarine Street, as does the following all too short instrumental "Disconnection Syndrome". No surprises there though, as the residents of Mazarine Street clearly drank from the same early seventies, Stooges/MC5 well of raw inspiration in their formative years.

"What's The Tendency?" takes us back more to the hard rock basics, at the same time ably demonstrating that not all who follow in the footsteps of the Sonic's Rendezvous Band are pure imitators. While few aside from the Hydromatics may have seemed to be contributing anything new up until now, rather than just perpetrating a continuing pastiche, Very Ape look like they've got something original to offer as well.
After that, the band eases its collective foot up off the pedal a little. "Loaded" (not to be confused with the Dragons' classic drinking anthem) still rocks, but in far more primitive fashion (not that that's necessarily a bad thing of course), while for "A Cool Kind of Misery" vocalist Mattias Silvell seems to be channeling the spirits of both Billy Idol and Jim Morrison (and poor old Billy's not even dead yet).

All too soon we're up to the final track, "Shake Is Sacred", where the band reveals its own variety of shake appeal. This Bar's motto reads "Sydney Rock Action via The Bowery and Motor City", but maybe it's about time to add Stockholm (and Gothenburg!) officially to that honour roll of the world's premiere rock'n'roll cities. Meanwhile, I'm just gonna hit "repeat". - John McPharlin



 

 

 

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