High Time



by Pedro B. USER (364 Reviews)
June 30th, 2010 | 3 replies

Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: MC5's third and final album stands as proof that lightning may strike twice, but it seldom hits a third time.

Time after time, bands have proven that nothing is ever set in the music world. There is always room for improvement and innovation, whether through style mix-ups or simply by tackling new issues in your lyrics. For the MC5, that innovation was twofold: not only did the band’s sound expand on the hard edge brought about by the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, their lyrics were also heavily politicized, with far-left and free-thinking ideals dominating the band’s songs. But where on the debut Kick Out The Jams the statement was made through fuzzy walls of sonic aggression, Back In The USA, the group’s second album, started the revolution through subversion, celebrating the simplest things in life: being young, having fun and expressing oneself. But while these two albums were undoubted strokes of genius, they also presented a conundrum for the band: where to go with their next album? And if High Time is any proof, the band didn’t really have an answer to that question.

In fact, out of all the possible routes, the band’s supposed maturity album takes the least controversial, merely mixing and matching the sounds from the two previous outings. The reason for this was that MC5 were assumedly looking to improve their record sales, and therefore felt the need to present the audience with something familiar, recognizable, and instantly appealing. Which would be just fine, if only the songs were inspired.

And so we have reached the main problem with High Time: there is precious little of the genius which characterized the band’s previous output. The sound, for the first time in their career, does not sound innovative, and while there is a huge improvement in Rob Tyner’s vocals – he now sounds to all the world like a negro soul singer – most of the musicianship is par for the course. Wayne Kramer’s angular riffs do surface at times, but “Sonic” Smith’s blistering solos are few and far between. As for the rhythm section, it does nothing unexpected, merely complementing the crazed-blues sound the band is aiming for.

But worse yet, the choruses are nearly absent on this third album. Before, even at their trippiest, the band always gave their listeners something to hang on to, whether it was a declared chorus or just some appealing section in a song. Here, most tracks just plod along, going in one of the listener’s ears and out the other, or alternatively meander about, never knowing where they really want to go. To be sure, there are exceptions – and those are the standouts – but they are not enough to redeem the uninspired, somewhat confused nature of the album as a whole.

The first of those standouts is opener Sister Anne, which actually leads one to predict a much stronger album. This is a perfect example of how to stretch a simple rock song past the seven-minute mark – the moment it starts to get dull, it fades out, leaving only a martial marching band, and bringing our interest right back up. Unfortunately, everything that comes after the purely hard-rock riff of Baby Won’t Ya does precious little to bring it back up. In fact, the only time the album ever picks up again is towards the end, with a few interesting details at last capturing the listener’s attention. It’s the case of the echoey acoustic part at the end of Future/Now or the subdued, yet clever use of a horn section on otherwise average closer Skunk (Sonically Speaking). However, the only other time when the listener is enthralled by a song as a whole is on Over And Over which – unsurprisingly – is another no-frills rock song. Everything else is bland and elicits virtually no reaction from the listener whatsoever – which, in an MC5 album, is a very, very bad sign.

Ultimately, then, this album definitely does not live up to its predecessors, and unsurprisingly saw the band fizzle out and break up shortly after its release. Where before, the innovations concocted by the band had the listener hanging onto his speaker eagerly awaiting the next surprise, here they seldom elicit more than a raised eyebrow and a semi-attentive “hmm”. And while MC5 completists may want this one to round up their collections, High Time stands as proof that lightning may strike twice, but it seldom hits a third time.

Recommended Tracks
Sister Anne
Over and Over

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user ratings (96)
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danthemanwiththeplan (5)
Having rid themselves of John Sinclair and Jon Landau, the creative forces behind Kick Out the Jams ...

Comments:Add a Comment 
March 13th 2011


Pedro has some good tastes in music, but ranking Peter Criss' latest album, Jonas Brothers or all 14 Poison reviews better than High Time's "Poor" rating makes this review VOID. Each MC5 LP is unique and a Classic in their own way. danthemanwiththeplan provides a much better analysis.
Pedro needs to relisten to High Time again, hopefully not after listening to Cinderella.

April 3rd 2012


Album Rating: 2.0

I'm pretty sure I ranked Criss and some of Poison lower than a two.

And let me try to explain: I rate in context. I don't look at who the band are or what style they play, I look at how many strong songs the album has, how it compares to the band's other albums, and how good it is within its genre.

So for instance, the JoBro's debut is a good tween-pop album with a few decent tween-pop songs, while this is a bad album, with few interesting songs, and doesn't make a dent within its genre, much less the band's discog as a whole. Especially after those other two albums.

Also, opinions are like assholes, and your fanboyish last comment makes that comment VOID.

More than a year late, but there you go.

February 23rd 2013


Album Rating: 4.0

Wow. I couldn't disagree with this review more.

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