To­tal As­sault Box

Classic Rock - - Reviews - Sleaze­grinder

For real rock’n’roll moth­er­fuck­ers only: a no-frills box set of all three al­bums.

Through the course of three messy, wildly un­even al­bums, the MC5 redefined rock’n’roll with such el­e­gant fe­roc­ity that peo­ple are still try­ing to catch up with them. Hot on the heels of their 50th an­niver­sary, the ca­reer-defin­ing To­tal As­sault Box belches up all three al­bums, warts and all, and lets the lis­tener de­cide what side of his­tory they wanna be on. No re­mas­ter­ing, no bonus bull­shit (well, they’re on coloured vinyl and there’s a book­let), just the en­tire his­tory of the bad­dest band in the land splayed out rough, raw and ready.

Their ’68 de­but Kick Out The Jams re­mains their un­touch­able mas­ter­piece. Recorded live and in the red over two nights at the Grande Ball­room in Detroit, it’s per­haps the most po­tent col­lec­tion of rock mu­sic ever recorded. Ev­ery song – the ex­plo­sive ti­tle track, the crazed Ram­blin’ Rose, the over­whelm­ing Rocket Re­ducer No. 62 – hits as hard as a fist.

Sure, this al­bum in­vented punk, but it also cre­ated a tem­plate for in­ten­sity that no one has ever matched, even with the con­cen­trated fire­power of en­tire decades (the 70s, the 90s) or ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gions (Seat­tle, Scan­di­navia).

It may very well be the great­est rock’n’roll record ever made. It’s def­i­nitely one of the most im­por­tant. And that was a prob­lem for ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing MC5, be­cause there was no way to match that in­ten­sity in a stu­dio. The MC5 was about per­for­mance, about a feral, fuckon-the-floor live as­sault that left no one un­harmed. You just can’t cap­ture that shit in a stu­dio, and the two fol­low-ups never quite caught the same kind of fire.

Still, 1970’s Back In The USA con­tained two clas­sic proto-punk ravers – Look­ing At You and Amer­i­can Ruse – and while 1971’s High Time is the band’s least in­flu­en­tial, it sounds the best of the three, and proves that the group had plenty of gas still in the tank be­fore drugs sank the whole af­fair.

While it would shake your hip biker un­cle to the core if he knew this love­ly­look­ing box was your first MC5 pur­chase, it’s a handy way to get it over with all at once. With 5 main­man Wayne Kramer’s em­i­nent new mem­oir The Hard Stuff just out and the MC50 tour in full swing, it’s the per­fect time to say you’ve been into this band all along.

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