Cheetah Chrome’s bones go on display at Spaceland
~ By RON GARMON ~
“Is’t a Corpse got up for show, Galvanized at times to go? Vampire, Ghost Or Ghoul, what is it? I would walk ten miles to miss it.”
No one ever accused Lord Byron of an overabundance of mundane sense, but he customarily walked away from animate dead flesh. I used less caution last Wednesday (April 21), pushing open those familiar Spaceland doors to see a very old Dead Boy. Had fabled DB guitarist Cheetah Chrome suddenly lost an ear or nose like some defunct pope, it would’ve surprised few in the dead-drunk crowd and delighted only some.
Worse, I blew seeing the Willowz for the fourth time. These art punx are the finest balls-out O.C. rockers since time out of mind (or Agent Orange, anyway), and their debut acquitted every nanosecond of faux-punk bullshit I’ve heard from that vicinity over the past two years. Aurally, The Willowz sounds as if some clever juvies took hold of a damaged Martian tripod from War of the Worlds, incinerated Costa Mesa, and creakily wobbled off toward Anaheim.
But it was blind vanity to think I’d make the encore. Kim Cooper and I had parked on a distant hill papered over with blackout curtains and SUVs. Eyewitness accounts differ, but apparently a Willow (maybe guitarist Richie James) did or did not attempt to climb the club’s ceiling supports, perhaps kicking some grateful clod in the head. Or not. The undersized crowd, filmy with booze fumes, already wobbly and red-eyed, was the thin cream of the Hollywood rock set, with many old friends in attendance. At some point during a coo-in with L.A. punk queen Texas Terri, I said nice things about her new Texas Terri Bomb full-length. You need to hear it today.
At least Sweet Justice was a nice consolation. Artfully splitting the smaller-than-you-think difference between the Guess Who and Cheap Trick, the band wove a deathless boogie chug into extended power poptoons of impressive delicacy and strength. Ex-Streetwalkin’ Cheetah Frank Meyer displayed a credible swamp holler, drummer Chris Markwood was a BellRay, and CityBeat contributor Bruce Duff is the bassist. Their undeserved fate was to be life support for the Dead Boy.
Since this was punk, no one bothered with a spritz of rosewater before trundling out the corpse. Part of the half-mythical Rocket from the Tombs before cofounding the Dead Boys in ’76, Cheetah’s influential guitar built a shrieking, trick-laden haunted house for the doomed Stiv Bators to wallow and cavort in. Inventing little, they looted the Stooges/MC5 parts bin like scabrous rodents, creating an intricate monument to Middle American ugliness.
Without a crazed stomp-romper to apply the blowtorch during Cheetah’s Spaceland set, the energy level never rose above piss-tepid. The musicians were among L.A.’s best, and Chrome is still a genius, but the show was pure chloroform, most of it coming from the star’s wheezing vocals. Ms. Cooper, owner of every Dead Boys album, and my coal-mine canary for this occasion, was asleep in a booth after the third number.
Here was another grisly bummer from the Punk Nostalgia Complex. Just lay hold of some aged hood from the ’70s, make sure to toss out at least two top-notch opening acts, then polish off the evening by letting the niche market ogle the golden geezer. Instant shuck; fun for man and beast. Except when the niche begins to bark things like “I wanna die before I get old!” and “Play Freebird!” and “Where’s the fuckin’ mosh pit?” Brief redemption came when Texas Terri gamboled up to shriek “Sonic Reducer,” even Cheetah showed a flicker of life. When she stepped off, however, the Man coughed thinly into the mic a few more times, and then was taken away for a decent interment.
Run in LA CITY BEAT 04-29-04
c) 2006 Ron Garmon