Total Assault Box
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.