The MC5- Kick Out the Jams
“Brothers and sisters, the time has come for you to make a choice. Are you going to be part of the problem or the solution. It is time to testify. And brothers and sisters, I want to know, are you ready to testify" I give you our testimonial, The MC5!”
The MC5 were always a controversial band. And they should’ve been. It took a lot of nads to even try what the MC5 succeeded at. But while being raw, loud, obnoxious, and always an opposition of the government, the MC5 were not anarchists. This is a somewhat redeeming quality in my eyes, as I view anarchy as being nothing more than a trend for little kids to follow and just looking stupid doing it. /hides However, not being anarchists didn’t meant that the band is not responsible for a movement that maybe pushed the genre of punk rock to a boosted start. In smaller words, without the MC5, punk rock simply would not exist. There has always been a contest between fans of early rock music. The question is, which Detroit band is better- The Stooges, or the MC5" Personally, I can’t answer that question, because my love for the two is equal. But for live performances, there is only one answer- MC5. Alongside the Stooges, the MC5 are widely considered as the forefathers of punk music. While not entirely being punk, more of a hard rock, the MC5 (stands for Motor City 5, as Motor City is known as Detroit, Michigan, the band’s hometown) brought everything dark and dirty into what seemed to be a picturesque, perfect, peaceful time. The bands use of profanity and rather vulgar subject matters were what ultimately built the foundation for the 70’s punk explosion. And when they were live, it was that much more intense. Lead singer, Rob Tyrell, with his unruly composition of thick glasses, large afro, and gapped teeth, fronted what is ultimately the most raw energy I’ve ever heard live.
This album, possibly being one of the most influential of all time on the genre of punk itself, is musically along the same guidelines as the Stooges, with powerful, raspy vocals, and crunching guitar riffs, with British-esque solos. But what amazes me is the raw energy of these rebellious rockers. If you read the liner notes included with the CD, you will see that the MC5 are not just a bunch of rebellious guys that started a musical riot. They are quite intelligent people with a purpose and a message in their music. And that was message the message the unmasked stardom, and brought all the grease and grime that penetrated through the glitz and glam to reveal the true, dark, and dependent side of rock n roll. I think by now, it’s safe to say that I am a big fanboy of rock music throughout the era of the 60’s and 70’s. But in all my classic rock nuttiness, I remain unbiased and opinionated, even to bands that I would sell my soul to. I would like to get off on the wrong foot for once, and say that the past three albums I’ve studied have had little to nothing wrong with them, and that includes this one. The songs on this album have very few weak points, and as an album, I must say this is one of the best I’ve listened to.
The very first song is a beauty in its own right. “Ramblin’ Rose” is anthematic from the first second when the wild chants of the crowd jingle on before the band pumps up the audience for the tune. “Ramblin’ Rose” is a very upbeat song, with a very catchy chord progression, but what makes it unique is Rob Tyner’s strange vocal performance. As opposed to his deeper, growly voice, the vocals are high pitched and raspy. But the bands back up vocals are very nice, and the addition of Wayne Kramer’s and Fres Smith’s dueling solos after every chorus is a pro. You’ll have to listen pretty hard to hear it, but the rhythm section is completely in the pocket, and the bass/drum part towards the end is killer. Judging from the fact that you hear a guitar solo in this one song alone, every twenty seconds, it seems this is a vocal/ guitar driven band to the extreme.
‘Right now, right now, it’s time to--- Kick out the jams, mother***er!’ The pure, uncut energy from ‘Kick out the Jams’ still awes me. By now, the majority of you have probably heard one version or another of this song, most notably Rage Against the Machine’s cover from their ‘Renegades’ album. But needless to say, nothing can come even close to encompassing the true rawness of the original. And the original performed live is even better. The bouncy riff and blistering vocals are, spite lots of imitation, one of a kind. The entire band shines through, not with complexity or technical ability, but with their ability to play from the heart. ‘Come Together’ is another loud song, and showcases more blistering guitar work. Rob Tyrell’s occasional ‘Come on mama, yes; yes’ captures the energy. His voice is strong, and to me, sounds very similar to a combination of Roger Daltrey and Jim Morisson. Feedback is your friend on this one, and if you don’t like it, learn to.
‘Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa)’ is one of the better tracks on the album, and epitomizes the energy of the MC5. ‘I’m a born a hell raiser, yes I am’ are the only words that can describe the band, and Tyrell’s soaring voice, combined with the dueling guitar solos, is what I’d like to describe as the epitome of a good rock band. The guitar work is maybe the best on the album, as well. But on the other hand, there is a rather boring track on the album. ‘Borderline’ starts with a great riff, and a blazing tempo, but it is too bland for my tastes, and Rob’s voice is annoying. But on the bright side, it’s only 2:50. And as far as I’m concerned, that is the only weak point on the album. What redeems ‘Borderline’ is what I might consider one of the best tracks on this live performance album, ‘Motor City is Burning’. What makes it so well liked is the fact that it sounds like nothing on the entire album. While every other song seems to be tumultuous and chaotic, ‘Motor City’ is laid back and bluesy, with some fancy, ambient guitar work. The bass is actually audible now, and the guitar solos are wonderfully melodic. Tyrell’s voice is somewhat harshly perfect for a blues song. Everyone just plays like their lives depended on it here, and the outcome is arguably the best on the album. ‘I Want You Right Now’ is a bit slower than the other songs, but still upbeat, and the guitar work is sweltering. But there are mellow points throughout the track, and seems to be the younger brother of its predecessor. Wayne also provides a counter voice to add some color to the quiet parts. But what closes the performance is the strange, ambient ‘Starship’ with its stop/start riffing and provocative lead work. What is most shocking about the song is its simplistic ambient section, only using guitars to provide the sounds. The drums are thunderous throughout the song, up until everything just seems to stop. Rob’s voice is spooky, and the Arabian-themed effects are very intense. This was truly a great way to end a great album.
Whether you are a classic rock fan or punk, rocker or activist, you will find a new place in your heart for a love of the MC5’s music. If you are a punk fan, you will find that the roots of your favorite genre lie in this band’s raw energy and message. Rock fans alike will see the talent of the band, and realize that Detroit was responsible for some of the most incendiary music on the planet. The MC5 and Stooges are tied in my mind, but when they do their thing live, there is only one obvious choice- The Motor City 5.