Rock & Roll Ass Love

DC Special/Rattlesnakes/ Backstabbers/ It's Time to Rock
Koo's Art Cafe
Friday, April 13

This was a weekend that will go down in rock history. Poor Jesus can only wish he'd inspire such fevered devotion and love on Easter Sunday as AC/DC did on Saturday night—sure, he's got the hairstyle down, but he really needs to work on his riffs. And poor Joey Ramone shuffled off this mortal coil for that great Rockaway Beach in the sky, where the opening bands never suck and Converse will go out of business.

And poor us? Where were we in the eye of this rock & roll hurricane? Huddled with a handful of the faithful—the greasy high school kids, the cute mod girls, even Mom and Pop and their pintsize tot Cody, who got the crowd all revved up by pumping his tiny fist in the air and shouting, “You're a punk rock!”—at Koo's Cafe, gathered appropriately between a death and a resurrection to rock with all the little people. The king may be dead, but rock staggers on.

So first, a little advice: you probably don't want to name your band It's Time to Rock—it's an easy target. “You know It's Time to Rock?” people'd say to us smugly. “They don't.” But remember the music critic's dictum: if it looks like rock (a bunch of badly coifed teenagers with beefy amps), talks like rock (“Feel free to punch him,” offered the bass player as the singer started tossing too-static audience members into the walls), and runs someone's naked ass right past your head like rock . . . Well, it's good enough for us. Somebody give that singer a scholarship to the Iggy Pop School for Wayward Boys because he was flipping out in all the worst—and by worst we mean best—ways. Sure, there was some sort of music going on—something like the metal-cum-Camaro-rock riffage that keeps Guitar Center in business. But that wasn't the real show. “Touch me. . . . Do whatever you want to me,” the singer crooned, and some guys toppled him to the floor, pulled his pants off, and slapped a sticker on his ass. Too bad you can't burn that on a CD and sell it, but that's rock & roll for ya—ever ephemeral and all that.

Seattle's poor Backstabbers could only wish for that sort of selfless rock & roll ass love, but nobody wanted to touch them at all. Remember the Murder City Devils? So do these guys: they were doing their damnedest to drag 1970s New York and Detroit out of the sepulcher where they're mercifully rotting and beat some last wisps of life out of 'em. Good thing they had a fog machine, which at least spared them seeing the pity dances they got from the crowd. Maybe they were out of their element, but there was something painfully self-conscious about these kids—they were trying awfully hard not to give a fuck. Better luck next trend.

Corona's Rattlesnakes were the palate cleanser we needed. These kids bulldozed through all the cloying cock-rockage that clogs the arteries of popular-music history and got back to the good stuff, digging out all the tasty bits of '60s R&B, soul, and rock & roll and electroshocking some spirit back into it. File their damn-fine split LP with the Switch between the Nation of Ulysses (but never as irritating) and the (International) Noise Conspiracy (but not nearly as Marxist). It's hooky but still trashy and sassy rock that goes way beyond power-chord windmilling, with a singer who shimmies and staggers as soulfully as you can if you're from Corona. Hot stuff, and proudly detached from the cheese-rock revival wave—which was about to tsunami down on top of us.

We should have known what DC Special was up to. They used to be the Top-Heavy Whores, if that gives you an idea. They had songs like “Barstool” and “Pink Elephants.” And their guitarist not only had a stringy, shoulder-length mullet that looked very serious and a wireless guitar (freeing him to rock beyond the typical 10-foot-from-the-half-stack rock radius), but he could also mug his way through a guitar-solo face (you know, the face you make during an orgasm, but more pretentious) like nobody since the days of Hollywood Rose. So, like we said, it was rock. But even though we knew we'd be sick later, they still played some guilty-pleasure R-A-W-K: a set of AC/DC-meets-Aerosmith-and-pops-some-Viagra-just-for-the-fuck-of-it that was nothin' but testosterone and caterwauling and absolutely irony-free, nut-busting, amps-on-10 power. It makes sense—now that the Warped Tour plays the arenas, the rock bands have had to slink into the old punk venues. Somehow, it works. Rock & roll might be dead, but it's still a mighty purty corpse. And that goes for Joey, too. (Chris Ziegler)

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