Sunday December 17th 2017

The McGunks – “Basement Anthems”


The McGunks – “Basement Anthems”


I missed a show today of The McGunks. Five miles from my house and I wasn’t working. I was unaware until it was over, that it was going on.

But I’m not unaware of how good a McGunk’s live show is. One of the best live bands I’ve seen since TNB started. A band, I can’t imagine why any other band, would ever agree to follow them.

The McGunks have been around for a while, though with many different members, always headed by Bob McGunk, lead vocals, guitar and main songwriter.

I’m guessing they’ve been around fifteen years, around the time that Andy and I became acclimated, once more, to the local punk scene- seeing The Spoilers, The Dimwits, Zippo Raid, Over The Edge and this band, the only remaining one.

Also, I first heard one of my favorite musical terms from this band- punk’n’roll. Besides using it often, I’ve always felt that this band most perfectly fits the term. Meaning- an equal mixture of the grit and force of punk mixed with the spirit and fun and wildness of rock’n’roll.

Let’s rip it up:

Starting with a Cream like lick and a Ramones like, three beats and “Hey”- “Think It Through,” comes busting out with a scratchy, guitar and scratchy, whiskey tainted vocals to boot! In the chorus the music drops off for a couple of moments to allow the drums to wail and wallop while and the vocals snarl and growl. “Give me just one more reason, yeah, something to live,”- “I’ve been up and I’ve been down, I’ve seen the dark but ain’t seen the light, been that way all my life (the boys answer), I’ve got to think it through.” I don’t have to think much about it. This is a great song- one rockin’, rousin’ punk’n’roll number that “makes its way all around”- pure, raw and true.

“Fall” starts off with such a great,frantic rhythm guitar all by its lonesome, that it reminds me of the Velvet Underground at its wildest. When the rhythm section does kick in, it’s with a garage rock dentonation blast-off . “Can’t fall off, you never get off, wasting your life away…when you live your life, live your life, like you ain’t got a clue.” But we’re soon barreling headlong into oblivion with the previous blistering, breakneck speed. This is a song of abandon, of passion, of finality and acceptance, of joy and pain and kicks ass like there’s no tomorrow.

“Monday Morning” starts with a rockabilly lick that’s quickly followed with an echo-y surf one, that would be at home on Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange”. “Feeling like a train wreck, you’re all black and blue, getting drunk and falling down, that ain’t nothing new.” This is another gritty, rockin’ take on life. “Feelin’ like a hit and run, stranded in the rain. Waiting for an answer, one that never came.” There’s a little bit of The Replacements in this song that deals with everyday life with enough hooks, observations and truths to last a lifetime. Probably my favorite tune on the album. This song is so fiery and fun and poignant, I’d rename it “Saturday Night 3 am.”

“Killing Me,” starts off with some slashing chords that makes me think of early Dictator records. The music intensely rocks and the vocals spout passionately. “Killing me slowly, killing me all the time. With a little bit more or a little bit less, of me left inside.” Bobby McGunk lays down some awesome, bouncing surf drums along the way. “You gotta find out, you gotta find out for yourself. It’s a long road back from being someone else.” I recently am finding out, how true that is. There’s an almost “Exile On Main Street,” vibe happening here combined with an early Clash one as well. “They’re gonna keep you up, just to kick you down.” This is a song that kills me with its power and passion, making me die with a smile on my lips.

“Don’t Need You,” starts out with some ringing, chiming guitar notes. “Many a mile has come between us, well all those days have come and gone.  History’s written by the winners. Everyone else just sings along.” A somewhat bitter but emphatic chorus that concludes, “I don’t need you,” follows. “Shoot the moon and miss…Everything we see is tainted, getting stranger all the time.” I’ll forgive the short, harmonic guitar prog break because this is another intense, poignant, perfectly rippin’ tune that rings fully of realness and truth.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis lately. I highly recomend you do so, too. When he sings a song like, “(I’m a) Living, Loving Wreck,” it’s not hard for me to imagine someone like Richard Hell or X playing that song.

The McGunks music recalls Jerry Lee as much as The Stones at their hardest, or The Ramones, or Motorhead. And the vocals, to me, recall Howling Wolf mixed with Bon Scott from AC/DC.

This is an album that has the sweat and spit and pain of everyday life mixed in with the joy and love and exuberance of it- slamming down on a power chord or one short, sharp, snap of the snare drum to give life meaning in a moment or at least, hide the pain of living from our eyes for just a while.

“Give me just, one more reason.”

I could give you plenty of reasons why I think you’d enjoy The McGunks. But your ears should tell you better than anything I could write.

I’d say with this album, Bob McGunk takes that giant step in writing that I see all songwriters eventually attempt. To write something more mature, with more meaning, instead of just writing songs about having fun.

Does he succeed?

I’d say. By a mile.

I’d say this is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year.


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