Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Tight Bro's from Way Back When - Runnin' Thru My Bones

Tight Bro's from Way Back When
Runnin' Thru My Bones


AOTM #71, April 2006ce
Released 1999 on Kill Rock Stars
Side One
  1. Hurricane (2.13)
  2. Workin’ Overtime (1.55)
  3. That’s A Promise (3.03)
  4. Gimme Luv (2.39)
  5. Strut (3.48)
  6. Drop To My Knees (2.16)
  7. Rip It Up (2.28)
Side Two
  1. Hayseed Rock (2.16)
  2. Witchy Potion (2.16)
  3. Shake (2.40)
  4. So Sneaky (3.22)
  5. Coo Coo Ha! (2.46)
  6. Light That Fuse (4.05)


You Can’t Kill The Undead

So my missus is cruising Pandora.com looking for the new noise (by way of the old noise, natch), this is about three months ago right, and she comes running into my bedroom blasting this proto-Sonny Vincent sub-Slade ‘Get Down & Get With It’ out the tinny speaker of her laptop buzzing like a motherbiatch. Even at pindrop volume, this is a deffo instant find of the year, but I hang fire on any official judgement until I have the machine hooked up to the big speakers, at which time the Slade connection recedes faster than the Morecambe Bay tide (or Dave Hill’s comb-over), as the bass kicks off big-time and the twin lewd/simultaneous rhythm guitar-mangle spewing out is immediately harder than MC/DC or the AC5. Harder and faster, brothers and sisters… demented, manic, strung out, brazen and braying and barking at the Moon – as though the R&B and soul influences of both of those aforementioned groups had, in the 35 years since their heyday, been honed down and burnished, paraphrased and ultra-distilled into a sonic uber-liqueur, then siphoned through the next decades of punk, metal, grunge, no wave and hardcore before finally being spewed out at 200 mph like some vicious Friday night curry/lager combo spray-jetting on to the pavement. Merciful relief! Moreover, caterwauling up a banshee hoodoo over this arcane free-geek shitstorm is one ardent polysyllabic motherfucker of a so-called singer who has even more to harp on about than Axl ‘And-another-fuckin’-thing’ Rose on ‘Don’t Damn Me’. Sheesh! Moreover, at his shrieking highest, this sweat-hog gobstar yowls more stratospheric than Brian Johnson and, at his midrangiest (this guy don’t do low), is a signed’n’certified caffeine-free maximum-strength Robby the Tyne (make the Future Now mine!). Meanwhile, mere moments later, M’lady is already on my laptop skrying eBay for evidence of their produce, indeed before I’ve even ferreted out the brand name of these delinquents responsible for said protection racket geysering forth. Hey, do these seer/suckers even acknowledge such protocols as a band name? Oh ja, mein hairy, says the lady wife, they’ze called Tight Bro’s From Way Back When. A catchy bastard moniker for sure, says I, and – within mere minutes of having even apprehended their existence – the Cope household has summoned up several armfuls of eBay buy-now, including EPs, shared 7” 45s and two long players…

Jared Warren

Three months down the line, Tight Bro’s From Way Back When has become such a fixture here we got burns of the two albums blasting Dorian’s side of the house, while the 7” and 12” vinyl lays permanent waste to the living room and temporarily forces my daughters to relinquish gorging themselves on such TVOD as Drake & Josh and Fatso Raven. Plus these old guys from Olympia, Washington gotta name longer than Bullet For My Valentine and Bring Me The Horizon, which earns me mucho post-Emo credit points indoors. Better still, in the cold light of day the MC5 and DC references, important – nay essential - though they be to the Tight Bro’s metaphor, are revealed to have been no more than a chassis over which these guys have dropped a hotted up George Barris carbody and installed a V16 engine. And besides, without The Who underneath it all, what were the Five or the Young brothers, and who’s counting anyway?’ Furthermore, several rotations later, both of the Tight Bro’s albums are shown to be such overdriven monuments to oblivion that it’s taken me until two days ago to decide which one most justifies the Album of the Month. In the end, I decided it had to be this debut because there are no cover versions and (most of all) the vinyl edition contains a classic Kids v. The Man cartoon strip in which the Tight Bro’s appear as white knight paladins of rock’n’roll whose commitment to the music is so evident that even Mr City Hall bows down before them and lets everyone party till dawn… even better, a passing old grey-haired biddy gets giddy from the rock racket and discovers that Tight Bro’s have cured her arthritis! “Uh-oh!” says the cartoon version of singer Jared to the reader, “Looks like we’ve created a ‘rock’n’roll grandma!!!” Now who, apart from ultra cool cunts such as me’n’Gene Simmons (see CITIZEN CAIN’D’s ‘Dying to Meet You’ and ‘Deuce’ from Kiss’ debut), dares to celebrate the grandma in modern music? Tight Bro’s, that’s who, motherfuckers! These guys were the epitome of everything rock’n’roll – five utterly confounding metal-informed hardcore punks who released records on the same labels as refuseniks such as Thrones, Half Japanese, The Melvins and Sleater-Kinney, but raging against the inevitable self-righteous PC of all such successful scenes by coming on like lobotomized Slaves of Slade and playing ZZ Top’s ‘Tush’ on stage whenever anyone broke a string. That such greedy slobs can have their cake and eat it, simultaneously straddling two seemingly entirely opposing worlds, says as much about the greatness of rock’n’roll’s Wide Berth Approach as it says about the Tight Bro’s themselves, and their record label Kill Rock Stars. No, Kill Rock Stars never said kill the rock itself, just kill the purveyors themselves – as any nice trawl around the Viking mead hall would always attest: let the minstrel sing the song and if it’s good enough we won’t kill the fucker.


That Shit Is Played Out

TAKE YOU HIGHER

RUNNIN’ THROUGH MY BONES is Album of the Month because it’s the raging best of two fabulous Turn-of-the-Millennium recordings (the other being LEND YOU A HAND) in which Tight Bro’s From Way Back When sensationally recaptured the kind of high energy hard rock that pervaded the concert stage of 1969-71 but rarely – including even Sir Lord Baltimore’s incendiary KINGDOM COME - made it on to vinyl in any truly sustained manner before the punk watershed of ’77, after which time the riff became almost the sole domain of metal whilst the scalding post-Keef RAW POWER chord sequence became requisitioned by the so-called Punk-scene.1 However, two-and-a-bit decades later, the five Tight Bro’s From Way Back When (hereafter known as T.B.F.W.B.W.) marshalled their forces around two former members of Olympia hardcore band Behead The Prophet No Lord Shall Live (got the vinyl, need the t-shirt!) to create this mind-boggling post-everything jizzfest. Behead The Prophet’s bassist John ‘Quitty’ Quittner and guitarist Dave Harvey thereafter fucked off all the musical experiment and the worthy and wordy lyrics of their former band (whose LP I AM THAT GREAT AND FIERY FORCE still sounds like uber superior spew, by the way), replacing it with the hoary timeless clichés of motormouth Kinky Afro frontman Jared Warren, ex-bass player/singer with Karp. However, claiming this shit is a mere DC clone, MC5 clone or a NUGGETS/PEBBLES (or, more to the point a HIPSVILLE 29BC or BACK FROM THE GRAVE) throwback/wannabe is to entirely miss the point. Rock at its best is meant to be derivative, motherfuckers!@*!?!

Without the Stones? No Stooges. No Doors.
Without Hendrix? No Blue Cheer. No Who LIVE AT LEEDS.
Without LIVE AT LEEDS’ ‘Young Man Blues’? No ‘Black Dog’.
Without Blue Cheer’s OUTSIDEINSIDE? No KICK OUT THE JAMS.
Without Led Zeppelin? No Guns'n’Roses.
Without Montrose? No Van Halen.
Without the New York Dolls? No Sex Pistols.
Without Black Sabbath? Nothing at all.

Collectively


So, despite the pictorial evidence of an initial DC fixation found in Tight Bro’s press clippings of Dave Harvey’s playing a Malcolm Gretsch to Quitty’s Angus Gibson SG, ultimately, this LP is so exhilarating and intensely bombarding of the senses that it sounds like nothing but itself. And besides it’s fashioned by North-Western boyos inbred by years of Sonics and Kingsmen 45s. Which is probably why Jared’s vocals ultimately sound like somebody accidentally played The Novas’ 1965 single ‘The Crusher’ at 78 rpm - so mangled, so garrotted, so eye bulgingly shit-yer-pants that W. Axl Rose sounds almost baritone in comparison.

John 'Quitty' Quittner

This debut LP was recorded by a subterranean and gristly five-dicked ten-armed tensile nocturnal marsupial that gobbles up its young and fills its pouch with personalised plectrums. After the muddy mush of their debut TAKE YOU HIGHER 7” EP2 new engineer Stuart Hallerman brought a brilliance to the Tight Bro’s sound and didn’t these guys just rise to the occasion. Commencing with ‘Hurricane’s’ maelstrom of accelerating snare drumming, RUNNIN’ THRU MY BONES then proceeds across the rock’n’roll horizons of the past 40 years, like a parched sun guzzling up all the moisture in its path and leaving only scorched earth where rivers and lakes used to be. ‘Hurricane’ is the Five’s ‘Sonically Speaking’ through a Guitar Wolf filter, but always with a Ray Charles heart that just burns with a truly methylated spirit. The flat-out burn-up of ‘Workin’ Overtime’ is another ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, while ‘That’s a Promise’ is suffused with such an incandescent and anguished and stratospheric rock beauty that it brings me almost to the brink of hope for this planet. Motherfuckers… I DO believe! This song is the HIGH TIME-period MC5 playing ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ re-written as a battle hymn to the White Goddess by Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and sung in Rob Tyner’s ‘Over & Over’ voice. And they don’t back off. ‘Gimme Luv’ is like feeding Led Zep’s ‘Communication Breakdown’ through the end of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ via ‘For Those About To Rock’, while ‘Strut’ – despite approaching midtempo regions - still burns just as intensely as everything that’s come before, as the Bro’s (over a soul strut of epic proportions) conflate several classic rock’n’roll lyrics together (mainly Gene Vincent’s ‘Be Bop A Lula’) in the same manner as Purple’s ‘Speed King’. Thereafter, the song tails out with a wonderful harmonica and call-and-answer chorus in the mandatory Young Brothers’ donkey-braying stylee. ‘Drop To My Knees’ is hotter that heil, an inflammatory berserker’s boogie with hard right/left-panned lead guitar breaks and an ernie-ernie-ing ‘Radar Love’ dropdown. It’s powered by a hugely thunderous and ornate Stoogedom, with Quitty supplying what he calls ‘neo-Fascist guitar licks’ of the oodly-oodly- variety loud in the right-hand speaker. It’s outrageous how a band can plunder such Rockus Genericus yet still come up sounding exactly like themselves and nobody else. If yooz a bunch of talented hardworking motherfuckers, you can heap cliché on top of cliché and all you get is originality. ‘Rip It Up’ concludes Side One by raining down a hail of drum-and-bass before Kiss’ ‘King of the Night Time World’ fuses with a Sandy Pearlmanised Clash gone ten times more stratospheric, as Jared’s voice rips through Alice Cooper, Gene Simmons, more Axl, bitsa Janis, hell, brothers and sisters, through everyfucker and no fucker-at-all – this Warren guy is a fucking original sucking at the fountainhead of every rock move since Ike’s ‘Rocket 88’.

Dave Harvey

When ‘Hayseed Rock’ opens Side Two, we begin on an epic cruise through what may one day become a medley of modern classics. This opener is what Silverhead’s 1972 boogie probably woulda been around the time of SIXTEEN & SAVAGED, if those rock tarts coulda got out of the Biba changing rooms for long enough – like an even more monolithic version of Mott The Hoople’s monumental Guy Stevens-produced live ramalama before Bowie fiddled with ‘em. ‘Witchy Potion’ has a twin guitar lead/rhythm worthy of Sonic and Brother Wayne, whilst the two minutes and forty seconds of ‘Shake’ is pure fratrock dorkdom, evidence of Jared Warren’s assertion that the: “Tight Bro’s only do "obscure" covers by bands that are featured in magazines like UGLY THINGS.” Dunno why they left it off the CD, but it helps confuse the issue even further, which is always nice. With its eternal ernie-ernie-ing guitar wail and arch-retro chorus, ‘So Sneaky’ is what The David Johansen Band’s ‘I’m A Lover’ woulda sounded like if they’d substituted Johnny Thunders or Steve Jones for Syl Sylvain as their touring guest star, and added The Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba on dual vox. ‘Coo Coo Ha!’ is probably the closest to a standard soul classic that the Bro’s have come. With its catchy bastard chorus ‘That’s Right! Certifiably looney!’ this song will be regularly covered in 50 years’ time AND be mistaken for a lost Barrett Strong 45. Moreover, the ‘Call Me Animal’ Television-style key change into the fake tailout is inspired as a motherfucker and killer to the Nth degree. RUNNIN’ THRU MY BONES finishes with yet more epic soundtrack as the slide guitar-powered ‘Light That Fuse’ careens across the highly polished floor, held together only by Justin’s wilful jungle drumming, some pure Sir Lord Baltimore overdubbed guitar strangling and the Tight Bro’s collective commitment to layering the track with as much percussion as (that reference again) the Five’s ‘Sonically Speaking’. Is this a barbarian classic or watt, motherfuckers? Ja, mein hairies – signed, sealed, delivered, they’re OURS!!!


A Little History of T.B.F.W.B.W.

Sean Kelly

Unfortunately, despite touring as much as they could and holding down day jobs in the process, the Tight Bro’s appear to have hit lean times fairly soon after the release of RUNNIN’ THRU MY BONES. It’s for this reason that drummer Justin Olsen felt compelled to jump ship before the recording of LEND A HAND; and also why this second LP was delayed until 2002. However, by the time the album recording had been booked, even new drummer Ian Vanek was long gone and had been replaced by a still-short-haired and pre-Ted Nugentised Nat Damm, later to become infamous as drummer with Seattle’s Viking-styled death ragers Akimbo. It’s most probably during this miserable interim downtime period that Tight Bro’s career went AWOL; just when they shoulda been picking up new fans by recording LP after LP after LP, working on the same kind of punishing schedule that informed the early careers of Grand Funk and Kiss. If the innate strength of your albums is that they sound as blurrily generic as Tight Bro’s do, you gotta go at it like a scrum of bastards or take the consequences.3 Ironically, despite its late release, the second Tight Bro’s album is virtually as raging as the first. I stated earlier that I avoided reviewing LEND YOU A HAND because of the cover versions, but that’s mainly because Tight Bro’s originals are themselves often as catchy as the cover versions, perhaps even more so. But the Bro’s were always covering other bands’ songs in live shows, having played Slade’s ‘Gudbuy T’Jane’ in their early days, and their recorded version of Joe Tex’s ‘Show Me’ is a timeless monsterpiece that blows my tiny mind. Ironically, LEND YOU A HAND concludes with a slightly inferior version of The Animals’ prison lament ‘Inside – looking Out’, which was covered with far greater oomph and panache by Grand Funk Railroad and Scott Weinrich’s The Obsessed. Apart from that one disappointment, however, LEND YOU A HAND is still almost as vital as the debut.

Justin Olsen

So Whatever Happened To T.B.F.W.B.W.? Well, the short answer to that, Brothers & Sisters, appears to be Nuthin’ Much. If we’re to believe the hagiographers and mythologists of the worldwide web, my favourite Tight Bro of all - guitarist John ‘Quitty’ Quittner4 - is a ‘professional window cleanser’, whilst singer Jared ‘Handsome Dick’ Warren “got tired of not having an instrument in my hands” and teamed up with Melvins/Thrones/High On Fire legend Joe Preston to form The Whip. Olympia myth also has it that his day job is spent “busy as a hair volumizer”, obviously capitalizing on his tight ‘fro from way back when… In the meantime, drummer Nat Damm mutated into a Viking and currently denies having even worked with Tight Bro’s5, while bass player Sean Kelly “is a professional hill roller, tumbling down some of the steepest hills in the greater Olympia area, just to make sure the safety standards are met for America’s youth”. Nothing is known of guitarist Dave Harvey, though rumour has it that he’s in France with his Senegalese girlfriend, living out his Linda & Sonny Sharrock fantasies. Interviewed last year before he disappeared, Harvey’s response to the question of any possible Tight Bro’s re-union certainly quashed all rumours and possibilities:

“We are so done. For years now! However: If Glen Frey and Don Henley can put their acrimony aside for a whole tour, certainly the Tight Bros can be half the men they are someday”.

LEND YOU A HAND

Do it, gentlemen. Not only are you brilliant and unsung, but y’all got the best un-famous lead vocalist since Woody Leffel split up Granicus back in 1974. Search out that motherfucker, steal his bass, hire him a decent PA and pronto Tonto! (He can still find time to do The Whip so long as the ever-multi-tasking genius Joe Preston is involved.) And if Jared really is a ‘hair volumizer’ during the daylight hours (which I kinda do wanna believe), then wrench his Nicky Clark hair-straighteners away from him and heft them through the salon window. Even if he’s gained 150 lbs and had a sex change, it don’t matter none - singers of Jared Warren’s calibre who match up to Bon Scott-Rob Tyner-Janis Joplin-Brian Johnson just don’t crop up every day. This guy’s voice is gold dust and we want it now!!! Ironically, Tight Bro’s woulda done much better in the music biz had they been halfway decently styled. However, had they been sex gods, they probably woulda slowed down their thing to attract the ladies and 50% of the appeal woulda been sucked right out the window. Still, when you got as keen and kick-ass a bunch as Tight Bro’s watching from the wings, mouth agape at Sleater-Kinney’s magnificent re-birth, we can only hope T.B.F.W.B.W. get goaded into thinking they could come back even harder than first time around. Indeed, I wanna see an ocean of hope out there, beloveds, because we truly NEED such Olympian brothers! Until then, motherfuckers, at least we still got AC/DC.



FOOTNOTES:
  1. The operative word here is definitely ‘sustaining’. Until after punk, even AC/DC LPs contained only brief moments of the kind of energy needed to compete with Tight Bro’s From Way Back When. Being originally released on the December ‘75 Australian-only album TNT, the demented ‘Rocker’ sounded entirely anomalous next to its truly sedate neighbours on the internationally-released DIRTY DEEDS DONE DIRT CHEAP. Indeed, even after punk’s broadsides slammed the rock’n’roll world for six, AC/DC’s first punk-informed October ‘77 LP LET THERE BE ROCK still contained a coupla slowies. Moreover, 1978 saw DC decelerate once more when they returned with the 55 mph 16-wheeler freightliner tonnage of POWERAGE (along with TNT, still my personal favourite). And much as I love IF YOU WANT BLOOD…, live LPs are always full of old songs played twice as fast so surely we have to exclude it. Of course, any number of early garage rock bands produced killer moments of sheer adrenaline – from the demented singles by sixties bands such as The Wig (‘Crackin’ Up’), and The Outcasts (‘1523 Blair’) to James Williamson’s edition of The Stooges around ‘I Gotta Right’. But to sustain such energy over an entire LP only happened after punk, and even then, always at the expense of melody and song – something the Tight Bro’s can never be accused of. I suppose that only by finding their way to their (some say) retro goal via hardcore and metal could Tight Bro’s have reached a music of such intense pace – dragging half their fans from previous hardcore bands (Behead the Prophet was terrifyingly fast) would surely have goaded each one of them on to play harder and faster every night.
  2. And yet, despite the enormity of that debut LP achievement, when Tight Bro’s opened their recording career with a fairly generic DC-like first 7” 4-track EP entitled TAKE YOU HIGHER on the tiny Olympia label Ten-to-one, for shit damn sure, no one could have foreseen that this debut LP was gonna be such an outrageously squirmy electric eel of a sound. On ‘Take You Higher’, the anguished insane vocals are undermined by the fairly inconsequential backing track, while ‘I’m in Luck’ - though full-on – is ultimately rendered goofy and ersatz because of Jared’s vocal asides. However, ‘Chicken Little Lied’ is fucking excellent, something like the Young Brothers playing Cactus’ heavy version of ‘Long Tall Sally’. Perhaps righteously, though, the best of the four and closest to the album material was the EP’s closing song, the un-used LP title track ‘Runnin’ Through My Bones’, which steams like RUBBER LEGS-period Stooges playing a Highway Robbery cover. But still nothing can have prepared fans for that debut LP.
  3. Accused of making 12 consecutive LPs that all sounded the same, Angus Young replied that the interviewer had not been keeping up and that it was actually 14 LPs that all sounded the same.
  4. Quitty is my mainman because not only is his favourite guitarist is James Williamson, but he also ‘gets’ David Lee Roth, which says fucking everything about a person in my book. Of Roth, Quittner once wrote that Roth “is the blueprint from which all subsequent LA hair bands were designed… The runnin' around on stage, the ‘I love to party’ persona, the bodacious blond mane, the pouting, all of it! And my man's Jewish to boot.” Nuff said.
  5. Nat Damm is also a successful designer of posters and album sleeves with a huge long CV of clients including The Melvins, Liz Phair, Jello Biafra, Gwar, The Hanson Brothers, Evan Dando, Death From Above 1979, The Ponys, High On Fire, Comets On Fire, Eyehategod, Nina Hagen, The Subhumans, The White Stripes, Teenage Fanclub, Ash, Wolf Eyes and Whitehouse. But his time with the Bro’s was so bad that he’ll nowadays even admit to designing for shit like My Chemical Romance and Devandra Banhart, but still deny any history with the Bro’s!


DISCOGRAPHY

TAKE YOU HIGHER EP (Ten-in-one 1998)
RUNNIN’ THROUGH MY BONES (Kill Rock Stars 1999)
LEND YOU A HAND (Kill Rock Stars 2002)