Is It Really That Great? Really?
Original Release Date: 1977
Allmusic Rating: 5 Stars (Perfect)
Pitchfork Rating: 10/10
Amazon Average Rating: 4.5/5 (175 ratings)
Is it perfect? Why, yes I believe it is, but I didn’t arrive at this glowing assessment overnight. It’s taken decades for me to ‘get’ this album. Verlaine’s yelpy croon, his (seemingly) spastic guitar playing, the home made photocopied album cover, the endless and universal praise for this album, their weird ties with the CBGB crowd (outsiders to the outsiders, they say), all seemed very suspicious to me. Too artsy-fartsy, know what I mean? But one day a few years ago I thought I’d take a chance and purchased the remastered and expanded edition, the one with the complete Johnny Jewel on it. I listened to it once and back on the shelf it went. For about a year. Then I tried listening to it on headphones, and that’s when the real genius of this band, and this album in particular, really kicked in for me. It was one of those moments of clarity where everything suddenly made perfect sense. That ‘spastic’ guitar sound, coupled with Richard Lloyd’s metronomic rhythm guitar licks seemed like perfect symmetry, almost mathematical in the way they played off each others style. This, I thought, is a punk JAM band! I mean, what other similar artists from that era wrote songs that exceeded 10 minutes? The songs are all ace as well: Friction and the title track top the lot, but every other song, especially Prove it and Torn Curtain, are really, really, REALLY great songs. Plus, these guys were no stiffs. Their music had a very groovy element about it, and the album swings, man. The rhythm section is as tight as any you’ll ever hear, and loose enough to let the guitars keep their center stage position. The production is old school righteous, with each instrument given enough room to be heard. Most modern production, to my ears anyway, seems to just blend everything in together, something that started back in the mid to late ‘80’s if I am not mistaken, so it’s refreshing to be able to actually hear the base and drums clear as a bell on the title track, fer instance.
This is a great album, so if you’re like me and are waiting for the perfect opportunity to hear this album, now’s the time to do so. Fear not. It is worth it’s perfect 10.