Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Mystery: The Sonics, 'Strychnine'

Garage rock, that raw form of rock and roll that flourished in North America from about 1963 to 1967, gave birth to an aesthetic that would later be described as a punk attitude. A major contender for the title of “the first punk band”, are ‘The Sonics’, who were part of the Pacific Northwest American scene at this time.

The term Garage rock comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish and that is exactly what The Sonics give you. The performances were often slapdash or naïve simple chord sequences, played hard and fast to cover up for any musical shortcomings. But don’t underestimate the ingenuity at work, the crudity was well studied, the band for example played their guitars through self customized amplifiers to achieve the harshest tones possible.

Their debut album ‘Here Are The Sonics’ was recorded very, very cheaply on a two track recorder with only one microphone to pick up the whole drum kit. The lyrics of The Sonics' original material dealt with early '60s teenage culture; cars, guitars, surfing, and girls but much more interesting was when they delved into darker and more subversive subject matter such as drinking strychnine for kicks, witches, psychopaths.

The track ‘Strychnine’ is a lesson in audio vérité, the vocals are bellowed and hollered with little attention to sound levels, the guitars are viciously overloaded, while the drums batter furiously to be heard above the din. It’s all here; microphone pops, fluffed notes and outrageous (for the time) lyrics.

You’ll be inclined to agree with Larry Parypa’s summation: “We were nasty. Everything you've heard people say about us is true."

Where to find: Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968

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