The Listening Booth – The U-Men, Misfits and John Garcia

Hello friends, welcome to The Listening Booth, the start of a weekly feature where I go dive into the music I’ve been listening to. Yes, it’s very self-indulgent, but I like to indulge myself, and I miss nattering about bands. It’s going to be a very casual blast through a mix of the old and the new, and hopefully a chance for anyone reading to discover something that they didn’t know they loved.

The U-Men – The U-Men

I recently read Mark Yarm’s fantastic book on the Seattle scene, Everybody Loves This Town, and it’s sent me back into that musical world (not that I need much of an excuse). One of the bands I picked up on, who I hadn’t listened to before, was The U-Men. They’ve been forgotten by mainstream history, but that makes them no less pivotal to the birth of what happened over there.

The only readily available material is a self-titled album which brings together their entire discography in an hour and a half slab of twisted genius. Listening to it, you can hear The U-Men’s influence on what was to come. Their loose, stoner punk sound is as likely to breakdown into bluesy insanity as it is to find a hook.

Perhaps even more noticeable, is its sense of humour. People like to characterise that period in music as dour and reflective, but truthfully it was fuelled by a bizarre (and often twisted) view of the world. The U-Men are no different with their music often being downright weird. Listen to ‘U-Men Stomp’ and tell me that’s not the case.

It’s often easy to dismiss the bands that came before a movement as mere curios. However, to do so of The U-Men would be a mistake. If you have any interest in that period of music and have never checked them out, make this the week you do.

Misfits – all the stuff with Danzig

It’s to my eternal shame that the Misfits have passed me by. I’m not even sure why. I guess everyone has one or two that they’ve never given the proper time to. Well, no longer! Over the last few weeks, I have dived headfirst into their back catalogue. The part of it that features Danzig at least.

And what a delight it has been. I know that it’s no great shock to discover that someone who loves punk and horror films would like the Misfits, but guess what? I do. They’re fucking great. I’m also aware that doesn’t constitute a revelation. The correct answer to that is probably ‘duh, of course, they are’. However, diving into all this stuff for the first time is a genuine treat. It’s a treasure trove of electric punk songs bursting with hooks. Sure, the production isn’t always terrific (for which read: mostly awful), but those songs still shine through.

At this point in time, my favourite album is Walk Among Us. From that opening two-punch of ’20 Eyes’ into ‘I Turned Into A Martian’ through ‘Hate Breeders’ to ‘Astro Zombies’ and ‘Braineaters’ it’s a joyous blast. Yet, over time, I suspect Earth A.D. will take that spot. It has more of a hardcore leaning meaning it lacks the immediate hooks that the other two have, but as someone who tends to lean towards that side of punk, I can already feel it working its magic.

I don’t feel like I have to go out to bat for the Misfits. They’re hardly an unknown property with 99% of those who are going to appreciate their music not needing to be told to check it out. If, however, like me, you are in the 1% who haven’t, then I implore you to fix that. Get a hold of those first three albums (and the two Collections) and join the gang. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

John Garcia – John Garcia And The Band Of Gold

John Garcia is in the enviable position of being the guy from Kyuss while also being in the unenviable position of being the guy from Kyuss. On the one hand, that’s a hell of a legacy to have behind you. On the other, how the fuck do you top that legacy?

Truthfully, you’re not going to. That doesn’t mean you can’t make great music, though, and in what Garcia has claimed may be his final album, John Garcia And The Band Of Gold, he proves that he’s still capable of capturing a bit of the old magic.

You’re not going to be surprised by how this sounds. It’s not the big band mentioned above, but it’s from the same world. Bluesy stoner rock and roll that has wandered out of the desert craving a beer and some shade. Not that you should dismiss it as more of the same. Songs like ‘Jim’s Whiskers’ flat out rock while the album’s climax, ‘Softer Side’, does exactly what it says on the tin as it aims to tug on the heartstrings.

Look, this album isn’t going to blow your mind. However, there ain’t much out at this time of year, and if you fancy a trip to the desert to blast away the festive cobwebs, you could do a lot worse.

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