Wounded Lion take pride in making a lot out of a little
“Some people are friennnnnnndly beeeeeecause they’re craaaaaaaazy,” says Brad Eberhard. “Some people are friiiiendly just because they’re niiiiiiice.” Behind him, his band Wounded Lion chunters down-up-down between one chord most famously deployed at the Cramps’ set at the Napa State Mental Hospital and one chord most infamously deployed at Crime’s set at San Quentin State Prison. “Thought everyone was craaaaaaaazy til I met my baaaaaaaaby,” says Eberhard. “Have you met my baaaaaaaaaby? Well, she is realllllly nice!”
And that’s the new single. All of it. It’s called “Friendly?” It will be out momentarily on LA’s In the Red and it sits heavy and content in its irreducible punk minimalism. The Troggs hit with “I want you!” and the Monks hit with “I hate you!” and now Wounded Lion hit, too, after falling several stories for a hard landing in the basement of punk rock. There, Eberhard shakes off the debris and delivers durable truths in a rattled baritone with a band who started as a sort of art project and referred to their instruments as “tools.” It’s primitive in the most honorable way—like an open flame or a sharpened rock—and it’s almost as basic as a band can get before dropping through the bottom of actually being a band.
For a certain kind of person (crazy or just nice?), it’s instantly charming. Devo did this, the Clean did this, and the Mekons did it almost better than anyone. You can sing along on the second chorus as soon as you understand the words in the first. You can play it yourself whenever you care to learn. You can laugh the first time you hear it and laugh a different way the very next.
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“I wanna play defense,” says Eberhard. “If I had to make an album in a month, I’d watch tons of Seinfeld and Friends with a guitar in my hand. I’m not in Fugazi mode decrying capitalism. It’s just an absurd playful way—a little bit of pushing against it. Whatever has attracted people to awesome rock & roll in the first place, like teens in the ’50s—so many things are the same, don’t you think? There are still the things that create a need for rock & roll. Even with access to the Internet, you still want something authentic and exciting and sexy.”
What was that? “SEXY!” says Eberhard, and laughs. He was once an art teacher in LA, but he grew up in Anaheim learning punk rock from Rodney On the ROQ—the best lesson being that all decades of rock & roll are friends, he says. And so, strange reverbed Elvis songs (“Blue Moon”) and Lux and Ivy’s own irreducible work (“Caveman”) and Alex Chilton’s transmission-dropping decision to force-forget everything he knew and play rock & roll like a 13-year-old would (just about all of Like Flies on Sherbert) all bounce and splatter into Wounded Lion. Now, after last year’s winning “Carol Cloud” 45 on S-S and with the Lamps’ formidable Monty Buckles currently on drums, Wounded Lion—also Shant, Chris, Jun and Raffi—lurch forth with new vigor. (“Cherry Bomb,” not “Roadrunner,” Eberhard explains.) After “Friendly?” comes out, they’ll release their first album. As yet untitled, but with songs about earth and space, Eberhard says—simple things.
“My worst nightmare in the world is the Decemberists!” he says. “I hate the music, I hate his voice, and most of all, I hate the lyrics! This notion of literary rock! If you’re intelligent and you really wanna communicate, you’ll speak clearly. Some people think if you’re intelligent, you’ll obfuscate. Like that proves you’re smart? It’s similar to the urgency of rock music—there isn’t time! You must not care that much if you’re gonna dick around.”
Wounded Lion with the Frustrations, Gestapo Khazi and the Tijuana Panthers at the Prospector, 2400 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839; www.myspace.com/theprospectorlongbeach. Tues., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.