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Album Review

In 1966, ? & the Mysterians went from playing dances in Bay City, Michigan to having the number one single in the United States in a matter of months when "96 Tears" became the freak hit to end all freak hits. By mid-1967, the band's career had already peaked, but they still had enough momentum that Cameo-Parkway Records brought the band back into the studio to cut a second album. Released in 1967, Action lacks a galvanizing hit single like "96 Tears" to pull the songs together (though "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" comes close), but the band sounds tighter and more accomplished on these sessions. A few months on the road had helped to toughen up the Mysterians' chops, and while this music still leans to the punky side of '60s garage rock, Frank Rodriguez's minimalist keyboards show a lot more confidence, and guitarists Larry Borjas and Bobby Balderrama contribute some sharp, flinty guitar riffs that add texture to the organ-driven melodies. Vocalist ? declaims as remarkably on Action as he did on the debut; while he can sound sweet and smooth on numbers like "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" and "I'll Be Back," when he stretches out vocally on "Smokes," "Got To," and an extended cover of "Shout," he brings a frantic R&B edge to his delivery that's a much closer approximation of his explosive stage performances. The production makes this sound like not much more than five guys in a room, but it's a better-sounding room than the one where they cut "96 Tears," and the overall effect is that of a band that's eager to please but can't help but bring a delinquent sneer to its music. 96 Tears may be the definitive ? & the Mysterians album, but Action runs a very close second, and fans of '60s garage sounds should seek it out.


Formed: 1962 in Flint, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

It only took one song, the organ-driven number one smash "96 Tears," to make ? & the Mysterians into garage rock legends. Eccentric frontman Question Mark (actually spelled "?," once he had his name legally changed) cultivated an aura of mystery by never appearing in public without a pair of wraparound sunglasses; he frequently claimed he had been born on Mars and lived among the dinosaurs in a past life, and that voices from the future had revealed he would be performing "96 Tears" in the year 10,000....
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Action, ? & The Mysterians
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