The MC5

The MC5

Human Being Lawnmower

Total Energy

This latest collection features the innovative Detroit hipsters firing ’em off mean and ugly for fourteen rugged renditions of standing classics and studio outtakes that present The MC5 in a gloriously crude condition. Along with The Sex Pistols and Iggy Pop, they may go down in history for having released more records after they ended than when they were playing; and such highlights the great demand for one of the great Elektra bands from the dark, dingy generation of head banging hash pipe types looking for the next big revolution in rock music and resolution of government policy.

This goes far in explaining why The MC5 is often pointed to, along with Pop & The Stooges as originators of the old school punk rock that wouldn’t officially arrive a few years after they split. Revolutionary? Absolutely. But I think by the very definition, and Sinclair said it best in the liner notes, The MC5 were a much broader musical talent than is typically afforded by the “punk” label. Without question the attitude and intensity were there, those key ingredients at the root of political prognostication, and thus, the fuel to ignite the flames of discontent between an “us and they” era.

And The MC5 were definitely a step above from the rest, “Crosstown Traffic” and “Summertime Blues” and soul blowin’ exploits of a rock n’ roll infancy where the bomb readied to blow. With their long flowing locks and rugged chops, they played a fiercely loud and sloppy brand style at full amplification — the likes of which subsequently maintains Kramer’s “legend” status to this day — but to throw on tunes like “Motor City is Burning,” “I Believe to My Soul,” or their ungovernably raucous version of Thompson’s “Gotta Keep Movin’,” one thing is made clear: this band couldn’t sit still, but they could play! They were a tad brasher than their still closely cropped cousins of the day, often times hidden behind the bangs, a cigarette or a sneer, and the outpouring of emotion that would break The Blue Cheer right from their sunny day sojourn and dead in their tracks. Over and again, we can grab a piece of the past, feel close to the classics of the day, and realize The MC5 are an institution worthy of further recognition and a greater place in history than they’ve up to now been afforded. But such is the life of an underground rumbling that never quite lived under a blue sky or wry grin; “The Baddest & Maddest” is just what it says it is.

Do you need these versions of mostly previously released tracks as alt versions? It depends. If you’ve had your faith shaken by raw deal retreads of old music retouched, repackaged, and regurgitated from ridiculously inferior demo tapes drowned in a sea of hiss… stop complaining, what the hell, it’s fucking 1968 for Christ’s sake! Seriously though, save for a few spotty stand ups for something like “Brother J.C. Intro” and “I’m Mad Like Eldridge Cleaver,” which for the rest of its fifteen or so minutes does carry on in a traditionally Hooker-like fashion for a funky faraway crusade through a bayou of blues greatness, this is a comfortably “audible” version that’s got an extra ounce of balls to go with the “bad.” So get it because The MC5 talked shit, broke rules, and broke ground with their music, which at once combines the worst of socio-political anarchism, with badass Brown, classic Hendrix, and a whole lotta soul.

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