The Roll Part

Make sense of the Hentchmen

Photo Courtesy Times Beach RecordsGiven that rock has been a rotting, bloated corpse for at least 25 years, perhaps it's wise for us now to consider that what was truly enjoyable about rock & roll was indeed the roll part. Detroit's Hentchmen roll like you wouldn't believe, especially at 45 rpm on seven-inch vinyl discs. Tim, John and Chris—we're told all last names are simply "Hentch"—were three close high school friends better known at the time for their wild late-night parties than their music, but they came together as a band back in 1992 for a show at a house party in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and stuck around because it seemed like the right thing to do—and because their high school ska-metal band ("Kind of a weird fusion thing," sighs John) wasn't really doing it for them. When Chris moved to Chicago, longtime friend Mike replaced him on drums with little change in the band's sound—somewhere between the bass-less R&B stomp of the Gories and the manic organ mashing of New Orleans mad scientist Mr. Quintron—or their aesthetic of barely organized, drunken musical tomfoolery, the soundtrack to the kind of insanely rocking frat-house party that really only ever existed in the minds of obsessive '60s garage rock fans and Animal House devotees.

Twelve years later, they've toured internationally and amassed a discography that contains nearly 150 songs, only the most recent of which were not recorded on a four-track in their basement. Since most trash rock fans have a speaking vocabulary of barely 150 words anyway, it might be tough to make sense of that kind of discography, so here's a basic back-to-front guide:

10. HAM & OIL (Gas Records, Finland, 1998): The simple beauty of the Hentchmen's songs is that they're all about girls, cars and guitars, none more so than the instrumentals. Here, "Ham & Oil" is the fun one, while the flipside, "Club Wagon," is the fast one. 9. HOT ROD MILLIE (Norton, New York City, 1994): Not to be confused with other Hentch gal Mush Mouth Millie, the Millie of this title tune—which also appears on the Ultra Hentch LP—drives a fast car and calls the shots; Johnny laments, "I tried to reach the clutch to show her how I felt, but all I could catch was her safety belt." On the flip side, the boys tear into a fantastic version of Chuck Berry's "Our Little Rendezvous" replete with handclaps, harmonica wailing and a truly blistering guitar solo. "Rawhide," a fine instrumental, rounds out the disc. 8. ITALIAN IMPORT (Italy Records, Detroit, 1998): A fine rendition of the Yardbirds' "Psycho Daisies" is joined with a magnificent "Some Other Guy," featuring Jack White. Who the hell is Jack White? Now we know. Thanks, Hentchmen! 7. GRAVEL BITE (1+2 Records, Japan, 1995): The massive "Gravel Bite," concentrated Farfisa bluster and wheeze, is reason enough to track down this Japanese import. On the flip, probably Chuck Berry's finest moment in the hands of the Hentchmen: "It Don't Take but a Few Minutes" idles along wonderfully; then the instrumental "The Passerby" provides the perfect soundtrack for a lazy late-night cruise down darkened streets, so beautiful it will bring a tear to your eye. Really. 6. RED HOT CAR (Hillsdale Records Co., San Francisco, 1995): This one is worth picking up for the absolutely scorching "Oil Leak" and a speedier version of "Red Hot Car" than appeared on the Broad Appeal LP. 5. TEENAGE LETTER (D*wrecked*hiT Records, Detroit, 2000): Many have tried, but none have surpassed the Hentchmen's version of Renald Richard's "Teenage Letter." "Creep of the Year" is the rollicking instrumental B-side (inspired by John Travolta winning the poll of the same name in NME), with a manic guitar solo that nearly breaks the song in half, signaling a fine return to form for the band after their brief midcareer siesta. 4. TWO TONE BELAIR (Estrus Records, Bellingham, 1995): The band's only Estrus outing and the record that put Ypsilanti on the map. "Two Tone Belair" would later be found in a live version on the Motorvatin' LP, but this is the one you need, and "20 Girls" is sheer perfection on wax—utter rock & roll nonsense yelled with such foolhardy youthful exuberance you'll be lucky to make it to the phenomenal closer, "Porch Recker," without passing out. 3. SELF-TITLED (Front Porch Records, Detroit, 1993): Front Porch Records No. 1—the disc that launched a buncha ships. Archetypal Hentch instrumental "Nervous Reck" starts things off nicely, and the disc hums all the way through the perfectly inept guitar solo and crazed, primal yapping that finish off "Creepdog." Eminently worth tracking down, though your search may be long and full of distraction. 2. WHY DID GOD MAKE GIRLS? (Norton Records, 1997): "Why Did God Make Girls?"—a cover of the obscuro garage rocker by Palmyra, New Jersey's J.D. Rogues—is completely stripped of reason and competence until all that remains is pure joy. It's backed with a version of "Red River Rock" that will make your hair stand on end. 1. THE BREATHER (Happy Hour Records, presumably of Detroit, 1993): The second Hentchmen single, recorded at Genitti's 7 Course Family-Style Dining. This disc is worth the price of admission for "The Breather," a bashing instrumental that cleverly mixes perverted heavy breathing and a reference to eggplant with the more innocent yelps and yowls of prank call rock & roll delight. THE HENTCHMEN WITH THE MILLIONAIRES AND THE STOCKINGS AT ALEX'S BAR, 2913 ANAHEIM ST., LONG BEACH, (562) 434-8292; WWW.ALEXSBAR.COM. FRI., 8 P.M. $7. 21+.
 
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