It’s “wicked cool” indeed whenever someone with influence decides to help out a deserving rock and roll band which has been toiling in the trenches for years, earning rave reviews and converting everyone they play in front of into rabid fans. God bless Bruce Springsteen’s right-hand man and Soprano’s goodfella Miami Steve Van Zandt for starting his popular Underground Garage radio show a few years ago. Since then, a mini garage/freakbeat/psych-rock revolution has begun and both new bands and veterans like The Chesterfield Kings have benefited. It’s truly fitting the band is finally seeing their records in the large record stores and having reviews posted in the glossy magazines and on major websites as they deserve it for slogging it out for years and staying true to their musical vision.
Originating out of upstate New York in the late ’70’s, the band combated the growing punk/new-wave scene by creating a fierce R&B sound reminiscent of the mid-’60’s icons The Rolling Stones and The Kinks. In fact, the band once had an official credo never to have their music sound like it was made after 1966. After their first couple of albums, however, the once-four-piece band was whittled down to two members – Greg Prevost and Andy Babiuk – and a little bit of a style change was in the offing. Not that they have strayed too far from their original mission. After gathering a few more like-minded souls to fill the void left by the defections of the other band members, Prevost and Babiuk continued with their garage rock/British R&B sound and have kept the flame of their fierce garage rock burning ever since. During this time they have matured from mere regurgitators (albeit great ones) to gifted songwriters. While some may dismiss their sound as a genre exercise, upon closer inspection a true music lover will realize they have taken the classic blueprint and have managed to create their own artistic statements. Their love for the 60’s garage/R&B sound is so passionate it cannot be dismissed as pure revivalism – the band makes their music purely, honestly and with plenty of love – the true ingredients of real art. The band is the real deal and if any of their albums were to prove how fantastic their music is, it is their newest.
Since the Chesterfield Kings have pretty much been chasing the Rolling Stones ever since the Kinks’ first album way back in 1983, you could call this latest musical salvo an attempt to come up with a better psychedelic album than the Stones’ Satanic Majesties. That the band manages to best their idols is not an attempt to bring up the now-cliched familiar knocks on the Stones’ album. In retrospect, Satanic Majesties was a decent attempt to take Jagger’s and Richards’ slant on R&B and add some acid-rock to the mix. It’s just that the Glimmer Twins were too steeped in the blues to take their music too far “out” to begin with. Their album was too tame, an accusation The Chesterfield Kings won’t have to deal with, as this album is pretty fucking wild. Filled with the greasy sort of rock and roll Jagger probably wishes he could still make (and Richards would no doubt drool over) the band creates their best album yet, no mean feat for a band together for near thirty years. My personal fave “Up and Down” is the best Stones songs the band never made.
Fans of vintage psychedelic rock from the ’60’s are going to love this album for many reasons, not the least of which is the production. Sounding as if it was recorded in the the mid ’60’s, the band (which has always specialized in this kind of sound – check out their other discs if you can find them, all are testaments to the power of freakbeat, psyche and garage rock) has created one of the best psychedelic rock albums of all time, some 37 years after psychedelic rock first started. Go figure. Like the vintage cigarette the band took it’s name from, this album smokes!