Three old records part 3.
I don’t want to mention Steve Albini again, but it is only in passing so......
Anyway, Big Black’s parting shot was a 7” that covered “The Model” by Kraftwerk, included in Songs about Fucking, the double A-side of which was a cover of Cheap Trick’s “He’s a Whore”. It’s a cracker actually and kind of offers up a possible direction for Albini’s post B.B. stuff that never materialized and in whose place we got the weird admixture of the smug irreverence and rockist-worthiness that characterised Rapeman and Shellac. Real drummers suck.
Strangely though I’d never bothered listening to Cheap Trick themselves assuming that B.B.’s version was an amped-up desecration of some wimpy soft rock abomination. For twenty years I’ve been wandering round with the entirely baseless assumption that Cheap Trick sound like Foreigner or Toto or something. I only bothered to listen to them because a work colleague with otherwise excellent tastes (although he does like the Beatles. And the Beach Boys, for that matter) goes on about how good they are.
And fuck me, he’s not wrong is he.
The first album is in by a whisker because it’s got “He’s a whore" on, the Big Black version of which is a bit graceless in comparison, though it’s possibly not as good as the second, “In Colour”, which includes a truly paint-stripping live version of “You’re All Talk”.
To say it rocks would be an understatement. Imagine a Mini Cooper with knackered suspension parked up in a lay-by somewhere outside Leighton Buzzard: Geoff Capes and Giant Haystacks are having a fisting session in the back seat. It rocks more than that.
A part of it’s rocking so gloriously is of course it’s silk-shirted, preening faginess. It’s half-glam, half-pop, half-incipient hardcore, 150 percent thrilling. Unbelievably, instantaneously memorable hooks, crotch-tinglingy propulsive riffs, stomping glitter drums, a more-ish even-MOR-ish in places, exquisitely balanced, salted and seasoned feast for the senses. It’s the sheer ranging musicality of the album (and actually almost all their stuff) from the bubblegum-disco core of “ Whore” to the hyper-bright Boogie of “Hot Love” or the billowy, pre-verbed vocals on the lovely ballad “Mandecello” every track offering up some smart but unsmug bit of wizardry without it ever getting in the way of the song’s impact.
Sexy, sophisticated, mercilessly entertaining, horribly addictive.