May 7, 2009

Garage Rock City: The Small Faces for breakfast

I really should be writing this late night, 1 a.m., drinking diet Pepsi from a coffee cup, but instead it's early morning -- 9 a.m. -- and I'm eating my toast with butter in bed, computer and internet open: my morning paper. Flashes of blue light and faint yellow streak out from the blinds and cut possibilities across my wall. I'm sure I'll end up doing nothing today. These are the kinds of mornings where I wish I smoked and this was all a French New Wave film.

The Small Faces are like early Milos Forman. Rough edges, the blues influence giving everything a faint whiff of disappointment, the reality of empty sexual escapades, dorks trying to act cool in the midst of crowded mod dance hops. Of course, the Small Faces have a little grittier, streets-of-London knife fight sound, the kind that rumbles with Teddy Boys on a rainy English night and the losers in a Forman film would probably wet themselves if they ever had a run-in like that. Is it just me or did Led Zeppelin (or more precisely, Robert Plant) totally rip off Steve Marriott? I mean, what else is the vocal on "You Need Loving" but a stripped-down version of Plant's "Whole Lotta Love" sonic wail? And lo and behold, it is!

I can't find anything better to listen to this morning than "What'cha Gonna Do About It." The first Small Faces album is a bouncing, fuzz-headed, coffee and cigs, organ jump-up rock masterpiece. Is it too much to say masterpiece? I'm feeling pepped-up this morning, so I'm gonna say, "No." I can't help feeling pepped, the organ sound right now is too groovy for me to be feeling anything less than positively head-bopping. The Small Faces are one of those British Invasion mod bands, like The Who or The Yardbirds, and like all good rock bands in the mid-60s they eventually went all hippie dippie in the late 60s, turning psychedelic slop man, but shit if they don't rock the streets with this their first full-length album, a self-titled dance party disc released in May of 1966.

This is early garage rock, so it's still got the sweetness of the mid-60s sticking to it all smiley innocence. It's rhythm and blues, but the teenager kind, energetic and a little awkward, the perfect music for dancing after school at the local basement club. The Small Faces are actually grungier than the Who, the guitar's more razor-tinged, feedback's just a little too far over the distorted side, the organ is sorta outta control in it's straight-up blues attitude, the singing is breathier, more desperate and throat-stretched. The drums aren't Keith Moon crazy-genius, but they come awfully close (Kenney Jones would eventually join the Who on drums after Keith Moon's death, so there you go).

These guys are underrated, as if you didn't know. I just found out about them two weeks ago and I still can't get enough. Laying in bed for two hours typing up this junk for you all, watching the sun turn to a strong, driving spring rain, getting kinda bummed 'cause my prediction of doing nothing today is coming true before your very eyes, I still don't care 'cause I've got the Small Faces to cover my mind.

Just dig that crazy organ sound! It's "Own Up Time," kiddies!

What'cha gonna do about it? Plug your head phones into your ears and sing "Sha La La La Lee"!

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