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The Maximum Black - EP

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Album Review

Mooney Suzuki's Black EP was their self-released six-track demo, originally packaged and distributed by the band in 1999. It represented the group's sonic calling card, that at the time laid the foundation for what would define their sound over the course of the next two records up until Alive & Amplified in 2004. This newly re-released 2006 version retitled The Maximum Black EP on the V2 label has been updated with five previously unreleased bonus tracks that date from the time period of the original recordings.

It's very apparent from the start that Sammy James, Jr. and company have a strong love of loud, in your face '60s garage rock & roll, amped up with a dash of '70s punk and glam. Combining the twin guitar attack of the MC5 and the harmonizing vocal style of the Kinks and the Who coupled with a tight rhythm section, the energy put forth on this debut effort is truly amazing. Three of the tracks featured here eventually made it on to Mooney Suzuki's first full-length album People Get Ready on Estrus records. In fact, the group was signed to Estrus based on the strength of the original version of the Black EP along with their amazing high-energy live performances.

On the first six tracks the guitar tones scorch and sizzle like a hot grease fire burning away all the fat until all that's left is a pure fuzzed out rock & roll meltdown. The music kicks off with the simple droning opening riff of the instrumental song "And Begin." It's a classic rock & roll call to arms that sets the stage for the next five tracks with its intensity and sonic grit. "Half of My Heart" starts off sounding like Bob Seger's "Rambling Gambling Man" with a hand-clapping driving drumbeat. James turns in a passionate vocal performance while the guitar sound displays the perfect vintage fuzz tone. The guitar solo sounds as if all the speakers in Graham Tyler's amp blew, but in just the right way to make it sound like a beehive transmitting from outer space. The group does take the high-energy vibe down a notch slightly with the song "My Dear Persephone." This track would feel right at home on any of the Nuggets box sets; it shows how the group can change it up and that it's not always about loud guitars all the time. Here there's more of an eerie, jangly guitar sound with a revolving bassline and double-time drums that lead into lyrics that speak about craving the attention of a beauty named Persephone. Instead of a blasting guitar solo the listener is treated to a tasteful organ solo that better fits the foreboding feel of the song.

The five bonus tracks show a slightly more refined approach, with an early Beatles and mod-rock influence. On tracks like "Right on By" and "This Lonely Land," the guitars are less raucous and tamer compared to the first six tracks, which are truly bombastic. The vocal harmonies shine here, especially on the chorus of "This Lonely Land." The track "You're Not There" could easily have been on Love's first record. To finish it all off the band pulls out a soulful version of the Mike Coulter/Tommy Scott-penned garage classic "I Can Only Give You Everything." It's the perfect closer for a record that anyone who loves garage rock should have in his or her collection. ~ Chris "Box" Taylor, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1997 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '90s, '00s

The Mooney Suzuki debuted in 1996 upon the formation of Sammy James, Jr. (guitar/vocals), John Paul Ribas (bass), Graham Tyler (guitar), and Will Rockwell (drums). On top of their added punk of three-chord agility and their '60s momentum of the MC5, the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks, the quartet would spend the next three years playing in and out of their native New York City with the likes of Thee Headcoats, the Donnas, the Make-Up, and the Delta 72, among others. Telstar Records eventually packaged...
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The Maximum Black - EP, The Mooney Suzuki
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