Review Summary: Having rid themselves of John Sinclair and Jon Landau, the creative forces behind Kick Out the Jams and Back in the U.S.A. respectfully, the MC5 entered the studio and made the album they were put on earth to make, sadly the band would dissolve within a y
While it seems altogether strange that, at the point in their career where most critics and fans alike wrote the MC5 off as old news, they would come back with easily their best and most exciting album since 1969's Kick Out the Jams. However, the album was sadly under-promoted and within a year, the once great Detroit rockers had dissolved amidst personal differences and drug abuse; over half the band was addicted to narcotics such as cocaine and heroin.
However, it is said that a swan makes the most beautiful noise just before it dies and that is no exception for this group. The album kicks off with "Sister Anne", a 7 plus minute hard rock epic about a horny, bad-ass nun who "don't give a damn about evolution/she's a liberated woman she's got the solution." The song ends by fading out of the chorus into a bizarre dual guitar instrumental, but it all works. "Baby Won't Ya" comes next, and despite years of drug use and singing multiple encores, Rob Tyner's voice is in top form as are the dueling guitar's of Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith. The song is straight-up hard rock in the style of of the Stones with a catchy chorus and wonderful guitar interplay. It's followed by "Miss X", a ragingly beautiful cut propelled by a driving organ/guitar riff and soulful singing on Tyner's part, with fantastic drum fills from Dennis Thompson. The lyrics, however are kind of cheesy, and anyone who has seen a picture of Rob Tyner would undoubtedly be creeped out if he was singing it to them, trust me, dude was ugly. "Gotta Keep Movin'," rounds out side one and is a pure and simple MC5 song. Written by drummer Dennis Thompson it is, at three and a half minutes one of the album's shortest songs but also one of the most exciting.
Side two kicks off with "Future/Now", and not so much kicks off but swaggers. The song has by far the album's best bassline which propels the song shockingly more than Kramer and Smith's squealing guitars. The lyrics, composed by Tyner describe not only the faults of the government of the late 60's/early 70's but also those of the band's former leaders, such as John Sinclair, the leader of the White Panther Party. The song ends with an odd outro, which I can only describe as being similar to Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan." "Poison," a short rock song composed by Kramer follows, which has great high-pitched vocals and excellent guitar bursts but sort of runs out of steam in the middle due to Rob Tyner's spoken-word middle section. "Over and Over," comes next and is perhaps the best song on the album. All musicians are in top form, the bass is tight, the guitars shoot out some of the best one-note solos I've heard, and Tyner sounds fantastic, albeit very angry at the various injustices the song describes, showing that, while the band are far from the revolutionary ideas the promoted with Kick Out the Jams, they were still very politically conscious. The album ends with "Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)", one of the 4 songs written by Fred Smith. It begins with the powerful drumming of Dennis Thompson, which continues for over a minute before breaking into a catchy riff, with excellent vocals from Tyner and some great soloing throughout the song as well near the end, when a horn section joins in.
Overall, the album proves, if anything, that the MC5 were not done, although they would be soon. Legal troubles and drug addictions, as well as poor promotion on the part of their record company would lead to the band's downfall which is a shame. Having shed all their "mentors" the MC5 had finally made the album they were born to make but their fans were disillusioned by the sound difference between their previous releases and, truth be told, no one wanted to hear anymore from the band, who, while sadly burning out, still had a lot to offer.