Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Know Your Product

The Saints were a great Australian punk band from the late 1970's. Well, they moved to England to make their classic couple of albums (and some less classic albums which, while still very enjoyable in their own right, just don't quite stand up to the first two, no matter what your crazy friend in Brooklyn who is obsessed with Prehistoric Sounds says), but they were Australian.

Their first album, (I'm) Stranded, sounds like a hurricane. The vocals are sneering, slicing nasal acid. The guitar and bass roar. The drums are big and trashy and thunderous. There are a couple slow songs, and hey, they're great too - the guitars are still loud, I think I've never heard louder guitar on a ballad than on "Messing With The Kid." It's an amazing album, hard to beat.

But actually - and this may or not be a key defining characteristic of my musical taste - I've always liked the second album better. It's called Eternally Yours. It's still loud as hell, but the production is a little cleaner, the slow songs have a little less overdrive on the guitar, and ultimately it's less raw. Oh, and there's a horn section here and there. I'm pretty ambivalent about horn sections - basically, the more trebly a horn section is, the worse off I am. And it seems like a horn section makes a song no better and usually worse at least 95% of the time. But a cool, soulful horn arrangement done right can really add a lot to a song - and on the first track, "Know Your Product," the horns do just that. To me, "Know Your Product" is the Everest of punk rock songs with horn sections. The lyrics are essentially a reworking of the frustrated anti-cheap consumerism parts of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which always floats my boat. I know it's hard to believe, but I think commercials have gotten even dumber in the last few years. No, actually, that's not hard to believe at all. Brawndo's got what plants crave, right, right... well, "Know Your Product" is a great song, and Eternally Yours is a great album.

Last night, I went out to the Triple Rock, here in Minneapolis, to see one of my favorite bands, Gentleman Jesse and His Men, open up for King Hhan and His Shrines (by the way, those twin "His"-es lead me to wonder: are Jesse and Khan the two most insecurely possessive frontmen out there today?). Well, Jesse/His Men smoked as always. They've added a keyboardist who correctly understands that the only two good keyboard sounds in rock'n'roll history are: 1. Hammond organ providing a big background hum, with occasional rare riffy flourishes, and 2. Piano going dingdingdingdingdingding AND NOTHING ELSE (unless you're The Killer, in which case 2.a. Piano going dingdingding-dingdingding-dingdingding is acceptable). They're great.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, King Khan and His Shrines. All I can say is: WOW. I haven't seen a live band that good in a long time. I mean, I've seen live bands that good - just not in recent memory. It was about an 8-piece soul/rnb/rock/garage/funk/punk mishmash, part Screamin' Jay Hawkins, part P-Funk, part garage tras a la the Gories/the Oblivians/etc., a little bit of mindbending banter and secrets, and of course a whole lotta James Brownism from Khan himself. Well, they were tremendous. I danced, sang along to songs I was hearing for the first time, and cheered especially loudly when it was time to get the band back out there for an encore.

That was when I was run over by a freight train. A glorious, jawdropping, freight train of rock'n'roll perfection.

Warren from Gentleman Jesse's Men grabbed a guitar and joined the folks onstage (making it nine total musicians/dancers up there), and the band launched into the GREATEST LIVE COVER I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE: "Know Your Product," done EXACTLY AS THE ROCK'N'ROLL GODS INTENDED.

Ladies and gentleman: Everest has been climbed. That is all.


  1. Small correction:

    1.a. if a Hammond organ is unavailable, a Fender Rhodes will do in a pinch.

  2. me, i prefer the first album, but the 2 albums are staples. also, was not pleased that the show you saw above was not what came through here. jesse/strange boys came to the cactus and king khan was only in madison.

  3. Ouch, tough loss, Jamie! Nate, I disagree with 1.a. on those terms, but the Fender Rhodes can sub for (2.) if a PIANO is unavaiable.

  4. Prehistoric Sounds rules! To misquote Suicidal Tendencies - "Dan's not crazy, you're the one that crazy!"