(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Kick Out The Jams , 8.5/10
Back In The USA , 7/10
High Time , 6/10
Wayne Kramer: The Hard Stuff , 6/10
Wayne Kramer: Dangerous Madness , 5/10
Wayne Kramer: Citizen Wayne , 4/10

MC5, led by White Panther's leader John Sinclair and guitarist Wayne Kramer, represented the revolutionary wing of the student riots and used rock and roll as a powerful agit-prop device. Their sound embodied the rage and the sarcasm of the extremists, their lyrics defied all moral standards. Their live shows were wild, collective orgasms in which the band unleashed a monster and chaotic fury on the audience. Kick Out The Jams (1969) remains one of the most orgiastic, terrifying and visceral album ever released, a grotesque bacchanal of atrocious, primitive musical skills, a formidable assault on reality, the rock'n'roll equivalent of a nuclear explosion, sounding as if free-jazz and acid-rock had been savagely mauled inside a particle accelerator. The fact that its follow-up, Back In The USA (1970), was so inferior is proof that the masterpiece was due to the spirit of an entire era and not to a particular group of musicians.
(Translated from my original Italian text by DommeDamian)

MC5 were born in Detroit in 1964 as a direct emanation of John Sinclair's White Panther ("rock and roll is the great liberating force of our age"). They played at the groundbreaking rallies of the Trans Love Energies commune and even in the midst of the Chicago riots. They represented the class of white immigrant workers from the South and Beatnik students who gravitated around the Mayne State University. Their "revolutionary" rock was based on the unbridled violence of the instruments and on a powerful amplification. Their performances were collective orgasms, wild intoxications, and avalanches of sound dumped in bulk on the audience, overflowing with obscenities and slogans.

The first singles were released by small local labels, and would be collected, posthumously, on Babes In Arms (ROIR, 1983 - Danceteria, 1990). '66 Breakout (Total Energy, 1999) documents the group's first recordings (including a Black To Comm17 minutes). The five members of the band, led by the first great heavy guitarist, Wayne Kramer, as well as his worthy shoulder Fred Smith, and a mad and ferocious singer like Rob Tyner, plunged headlong into the elementary riffs of their songs, vomiting screams (instrumental and vocal) at full blast and at full volume, strong in their musical-political belief: "brothers and sisters, I want each of you to make noise ... I want to hear the revolution!”. The opposite of being incompetent, they were actually aware of the other revolution, that brought to Western music by Coltrane and Coleman's free-jazz. Their main influence, however, was Chuck Berry, followed by Tamla Motown, while their kinship with other "heavy" groups of the psychedelic season, such as Blue Cheer, and with other politicized groups, such as the Fugs

, were casual.

Kick Out The Jams (Elektra, 1969) is one of the most important, influential and creative albums in rock music, although it was born as an anti-artistic and deliberately poorly played product. Recorded live at the end of the year, it is indeed a grotesque riot of musical atrocity and primitivism, but also a formidable example of devastating power and music of the heart. Few bands can boast a commando attack of atomic tunes like Kick Out The Jams , Come Together , Rocket Reducer No. 62 , I Want You Right Now. The blues matrix is ​​disintegrated by the disruptive energy in an agitated sabbah of abominable sounds. Unrestrained percussion creates spasmodic tensions which then explode loudly in chaotic instrumental sarrabands. The baroque solos of the psychedelic suites have been annihilated by the devastating fury of collective improvisation.
However, metaphysical digressions are also mixed with many incitements to violence, when one professes faith in a cosmic religion that gathers the meaning of all revolutions, within itself. Then, the record ends with a scary version of Starship (Sun Ra), spasmodically stretched towards infinity, an eight-minute schizophrenic delirium, a hallucinating orgy of galactic explosions, paranoid chants, hisses, lost voices, deafening silences, cosmic madness.

Ten other sonic epilepses whiz on Back In The USA (Atlantic, 1970). This time there is less experimentation. The songs oscillate between the depraved anthems of the Stones and the continuing distortions of the psychedelics, some lashing enough to be a worthy corollary to the apocalyptic rock on the first album, Looking At You in particular. But above all the MC5 discover that they are close relatives, waving machine guns and hand grenades, of the most naive and anthemic Mersey-beat (Teenage Lust , High School , Call Me Animal).

Involved in the general crisis of the Movement, after High Time (Atlantic, 1971), a bizarre rhythm and blues album (horns, choir, Salvation Army band, Sister Anne ), MC5 disbanded, some ending up in prison (Sinclair in 1969 , for drug possession, Kramer in 1976 for a bad story of drugs and the mafia), some turning to journalism, some joining the ranks of the Movement veterans (John Sinclair directing a jazz center, Wayne Kramer making ends meet in matches “combined" against Ted Nugent. Fred Smith would marry punk diva Patti Smith and later, in 1994, die of a heart attack.

The Big Bang (Rhino, 1999) is an excellent anthology of the three discs and the first singles. After the rediscovery of the group, a stream of unreleased and live albums will be released.

Wayne Kramer briefly played with Johnny Thunders and wrote a musical Mick Farren of the Deviants, Who Shot You Dutch (Specter, 1987), a continuing collaboration on Death Tongue (Curio, 1991). Wayne Kramer was resurrected in the 90s from The Hard Stuff (Epitaph, 1995), a limping album that also includes existential songs such as Edge of The Switchblade , Hope For Sale , Crack In The Universe , Realm of The Pirate Kings and Sharkskin Suit . The  Clawhammer  accompanied him on the next Dangerous Madness(Epitaph, 1996), but the Detroit terrorist ended up playing a melodic rock and roll more suited perhaps to a dominator of the sales charts (Bob Seger and John Mellencamp often come to mind) than his past ( Rats of Illusion ). Both records are further sabotaged by spoken-work pieces which only serve to demonstrate how Kramer was more than just a spokesperson for Sinclair.

Gli MC5 nacquero a Detroit nel 1964 come diretta emanazione delle White Panther di John Sinclair ("il rock and roll e` la grande forza liberatrice della nostra epoca"). Suonarono ai raduni rivoluzionari della comune Trans Love Energies e perfino nel bel mezzo dei disordini di Chicago. Rappresentavano il ceto degli operai bianchi immigrati dal Sud e degli studenti beatnik che gravitavano attorno alla Mayne State Univeristy. Il loro rock "rivoluzionario" era basato sulla violenza sfrenata degli strumenti e su una potente amplificazione. Le loro esibizioni erano orgasmi collettivi, ubriacature selvagge, valanghe di suono scaricate alla rinfusa sul pubblico, traboccanti di oscenita` e slogan.

I primi singoli uscirono per piccole etichette locali, e verranno raccolti postumi su Babes In Arms (ROIR, 1983 - Danceteria, 1990). '66 Breakout (Total Energy, 1999) documenta le prime registrazioni del gruppo (compresa una Black To Comm di 17 minuti). I cinque membri del complesso, capitanati dal primo grande chitarrista heavy, Wayne Kramer, nonche' dalla sua degna spalla Fred Smith, e da un cantante pazzo e feroce come Rob Tyner, si tuffavano a capofitto nei riff elementari dei loro brani, vomitando urla (strumentali e vocali) a tutto spiano e a tutto volume, forti del loro credo musical-politico: "fratelli e sorelle, voglio che ciascuno di voi faccia rumore... voglio sentire la rivoluzione!". Tutt'altro che incompetenti, erano in realta` consci dell'altra rivoluzione, quella apportata alla musica occidentale dal free-jazz di Coltrane e Coleman. La loro influenza maggiore era pero` Chuck Berry, seguito da Tamla Motown, mentre le parentele con altri gruppi "heavy" della stagione psichedelica, come Blue Cheer, e con altri gruppi politicizzati, come i Fugs, erano casuali.

Kick Out The Jams (Elektra, 1969) e` uno degli album piu` importanti, influenti e creativi della musica rock, benche' fosse nato come prodotto anti-artistico e volutamente mal suonato. Registrato dal vivo alla fine dell'anno, e` effettivamente un grottesco bailamme di atrocita` e primitivismo musicali, ma anche un formidabile esempio di potenza devastante e di musica del cuore. Pochi complessi possono vantare un commando d'assalto di brani atomici come Kick Out The Jams, Come Together, Rocket Reducer N. 62, I Want You Right Now. La matrice blues viene disintegrata dall'energia dirompente in un esagitato sabbah d suoni abominevoli. Una percussivita` sfrenata crea tensioni spasmodiche che poi esplodono fragorosamente in caotiche sarrabande strumentali. Gli assoli barocchi delle suite psichedeliche sono stati annientati dalla furia devastatrice dell'improvvisazione collettiva.
A tante incitazioni alla violenza si mescolano pero` anche digressioni di ordine metafisico, quando si professa la fede in una religione cosmica che raccoglie in se` il significato di tutte le rivoluzioni. Cosi` l'album si conclude con una spaventosa versione di Starship (Sun Ra), spasmodicamente tesa verso l'infinito, un delirio schizofrenico di otto minuti, un'orgia allucinante di esplosioni galattiche, di cantilene paranoiche, di sibili, di voci sperdute, di silenzi assordanti, di follia cosmica.

Altre dieci epilessi sonore sfrecciano su Back In The USA (Atlantic, 1970). Questa volta c'e` meno sperimentazione. Le canzoni oscillano fra gli inni depravati degli Stones e le distorsioni continuate dei psichedelici, alcune abbastanza sferzanti da costituire un degno corollario al rock apocalittico del primo disco, Looking At You in particolare. Ma soprattutto gli MC5 si scoprono parenti stretti, loro che sventolavano mitra e bombe a mano, del Mersey-beat piu` naive e anthemico (Teenage Lust, High School, Call Me Animal).

Coinvolti nella generale crisi del Movement, dopo High Time (Atlantic, 1971), un album di bizzarro rhythm and blues (fiati, coro, banda della Salvation Army, Sister Anne), gli MC5 si sciolsero, chi finendo in carcere (Sinclair nel 1969, per detenzione di stupefacenti, Kramer nel 1976 per una brutta storia di droga e di mafia), chi dandosi al giornalismo, chi ingrossando le fila dei reduci del Movement (John Sinclair dirigendo un centro jazz, Wayne Kramer sbarcando il lunario in i match "combinati" contro Ted Nugent). Fred Smith sposera` la diva punk Patti Smith e morira` nel 1994 di attacco cardiaco.

The Big Bang (Rhino, 1999) e` un'ottima antologia dei tre dischi e dei primi singoli. Dopo la riscoperta del gruppo, verranno pubblicati dischi a valanga di inediti e live.

Wayne Kramer suono` brevemente con Johnny Thunders e scrisse un musical con Mick Farren dei Deviants, Who Shot You Dutch (Spectre, 1987), una collaborazione continuata su Death Tongue (Curio, 1991). Wayne Kramer venne resuscitato negli anni '90 da The Hard Stuff (Epitaph, 1995), album zoppicante che pure annovera canzoni esistenziali come Edge Of The Switchblade, Hope For Sale, Crack In The Universe, Realm Of The Pirate Kings e Sharkskin Suit. I Clawhammer lo accompagnarono sul successivo Dangerous Madness (Epitaph, 1996), ma il terrorista di Detroit era finito a suonare un rock and roll melodico piu` adatto forse a un dominatore delle classifiche di vendita (spesso vengono in mente Bob Seger e John Mellencamp) che al suo passato (Rats Of Illusion). Entrambi i dischi sono ulteriormente sabotati da spoken-work pieces che servono soltanto a dimostrare come Kramer fosse piu` che un semplice portavoce per Sinclair.

Citizen Wayne (Epitaph, 1997) veers clearly towards funk and rhythm'n'blues, but the material is weak (other than Stranger In The House).

LLMF (Epitaph, 1998) is a live album, and perhaps works better than the studio albums.

Beyond Cyberpunk (Music Blitz, 2000) is a sort of tribute by a star-studded cast.

Human Being Lawnmower (Total Energy, 2002) collects live performances. Adult World (2002) marks a return to form, or at least a return to his favorite themes of violence (Brought A Knife To the Gunfight), sex (What About Laura) and urban decadence (Nelson Algren Stopped By Last Week).

Purity Accuracy (2005) is a six-CD box-set of rarities and live material.

MC5's bassist Michael Davis died in 2012 at the age of 68.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gianluca Mantovan)

Citizen Wayne (Epitaph, 1997) verte chiaramente su funk e rhythm'n'blues, ma il materiale è debole (eccetto Stranger In The House). LLMF (Epitaph, 1998) è un live, forse migliore degli album in studio. Beyond Cyberpunk (Music Blitz, 2000) è una sorta di tributo ad opera di un cast ricco di star. Human Being Lawnmower (Total Energy, 2002) è composto da performance live. Adult World (2002) costituisce un ritorno, ancorché limitato ai beneamati temi di violenza (Brought A Knife To the Gunfight), sesso (What About Laura) e decadenza urbana (Nelson Algren Stopped By Last Week). Purity Accuracy (2005) è un box-set di sei CD, con rarità e materiale live.

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