Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Gories, I Know You Fine But How You Doin', 1990

The Gories
I Know You Fine But How You Doin'

One of the great (and lesser known) musical travesties is that The Gories—the best bass-less garage band to ever come out of Detroit and maybe anywhere—have been critically buried by a clownish, image-obsessed, meticulously-managed duo who mainly sound like a neutered Led Zeppelin that also eschew the bass-guitar and have a girl drummer. I will not name them, but you must know which gruesome twosome I speak of.

Detroit is obviously known for its numerous bands and musical groups, but rock and roll-wise, I’d rather it be for The Gories, (or) The Stooges, Nick and the Jaguars, Ted Nugent, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the MC 5, or even Bob Seger for crying out loud; just not that other band.

The Gories formed in 1986—a trio of obscure motor-city trash rockers that included guitarists Mick Collins, Dan Kroha, and drummer Margaret Ann (Peggy) O’Neill. They had done time in local acts such as, “the Wire-inspired” yet Jesus and Mary Chain-named, Floor Tasters, the U-Boats, the On-Set and Darkest Hours.

Armed with Fender guitars, Vox amps, a fuxx-box and a stripped down drum-kit, The Gories were armed to the teeth and prepared to churn out some of the most filthy, fuzzy, immediate and effecting garage-punk to ever be spewed from a speaker since…well, since Ike Turner’s amp fell from a moving car, or when Link Wray or Dave Davies slashed their amps, depending on which apocryphal story you choose to believe.

After a slew of singles and one beautifully realized yet chaotic album The Gories went to Memphis, Tennessee in 1990 to record an album at Easley Recording. The man they enlisted to helm the record was none other than Alex Chilton, formerly of the Boxtops, Big Star and Tav Falco’s Panther Burns—an avowed rock deconstructionist who had produced the Cramps psychobilly classic, Songs the Lord Taught us.

Though I have become recently wary of superlatives, I Know You Fine But How You Doin’ is close to perfect and should be legitimately placed above all other revivalist garage records. Another minor travesty is that the people at Rhino had the stones to put out The Children of Nuggets box and ignore the Gories. In the land of the garage revisionists—The Gories are king.

I Know You Fine opens with a lyrically poetic and antiquated sounding DJ’s shout-out from days passed: "This here’s the Gories from Detroit; hot of the press. It’s gonna jump on you baby and it’s gonna stay in your dress. Here it comes!" And then the first song, “Hey Hey, We’re the Gories,” scratches along, playfully aping, you guessed it, The Monkees. The slightly lascivious “You Make it Move” follows, buoyed by a fuzzy, livewire guitar line and the primal, repetitive thud of what sounds like a disabused oil drum.

Though it seems almost absurd to say, The Gories seemed to have cleaned up their sound on this record. Their first record House Rockin’ is bone raw, rustbelt trash rock which is almost sinister in it’s lack of control. Though it’s still a marvelous record; for I Know You Fine, they seemed to have built on that unhinged chaos, creating a slightly more coherent effort.

Coherency is one of The Gories’ strong suits. Trying to hold such disparate influences together—Guitar Slim, Chuck Berry, Link Wray, Bo Diddley, Suicide, Joy Division, The Sonics, in a slight way, Hendrix and voodoo—could make for a messy affair, but The Gories are masters at holding many contrasting sounds together at once.

The album is top to bottom nearly flawless sly and impish garage punk, shot through with minimalist deconstructionism and is built perfectly around the flinty, abrasive and subtly textured twin guitars of Collins and Kroha. O’Neil is the minimalist foil that drives each song—try finding another band, aside from perhaps Neu!, with a drummer who so thoroughly disregards the practice of doing "fills" and makes practically no rhythmic changes.

There are four stand out songs: The impeccably literate “Thunderbird ESQ,” a song about a guy wedded more to his fortified wine than his female companion, “Smashed,” about, well you can probably figure it out, the desperate “View From Here,” and, probably their most famous song, which is not saying much, “Nitroglycerine,” a particularly sweaty song, essentially about having sex and fighting.

The Gories put out one more album, the aptly titled Outta Here (1992), and then broke up. Mick Collins is in the band The Dirtbombs and Dan Kroha is in the creepy-looking Demolition Doll Rods. If you think that you are a fan of garage, and don’t have all three of their albums you should buy them today and worry about the appropriate self-flagellation later.

I mean this with all due respect—The Gories are to, that other band, what the Beatles are to Bad Finger. And that is no lie.



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