You know what the worst part of being a member of Generation (wh)Y? It isn’t that we’ll all be killed in the fallout from Blair’s oil wars if we don’t all go broke paying for them, it isn’t the shitty music or the commercialisation or the fact that I am significantly more closely acquainted with my iPhone than with the more remote parts of my anatomy; it’s that a great number of my friends, and as far as I can tell this phenomenon is not exclusive to the self-important media barfly pricks of the Leith area, seem mentally unable to just get together and fuck normally anymore. Nobody can just stand up and say “I like you and you are physically attractive, I’d like to be a very close friend of yours with the additional under-duvet benefits”, no fucker would get caught reciting choice lines from Wild Thing, it has become taboo to tell someone you make my heart sing. Honesty is the enemy of the modern dating game, straightforwardness his swarthy comrade. Everyone’s gotta take the vicissitudes and vagaries of the human heart and politicise it. We approach the act of finding yourself a friend you can share a bed with the way a general approaches a battle, or the way an account approaches an unbalanced ledger, or like we are acting a part in a bullshit rendition of Eastenders or Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Motherfuckers, you’ll all have someone you like, whether you’ve successfully navigated the courting labyrinth without meeting any minotaurs, or if you know there’s someone you just love to see, or if there’s just that one person in the bar you’ve always been too afraid to talk to; ask yourself why you don’t just drop all the pretences, forget that you’re pretending you don’t like songs to seem cool and forget that you’re keeping down this air of passionate excitement in their presence and just go to them and tell them exactly how you feel, you make my heart sing. Seeing as rock and roll has always generally been about getting with people or breaking up, I present to you the perfect album to drench out all that bullshit and soak back into a warm bath of straight-talking and honest loving. The spectacularly wonderful Kick Out the Jams, by the Motor City Five.
Described by Lester Bangs as “intentionally crude and aggressively raw”, like so many truly great things, Kick Out the Jams was at first rated unfavourably. Specialising in offending, the MC5 risked getting censored by nervous record execs who, perversely like today’s fucked-up twenty-somethings, thought that opening a track with the now-historic breathless line – “and right now... right now... right now it’s time to... kick out the jams motherfucker!” apparently opening the song with precisely what you intend to do during the next three minutes as well as what you try to do to the whole of rock and roll is a little too forward. Just as explaining to that cute little object of your desire that you’d just like to get sloppy-drunk and make with the underpants Charleston until you roll back exhausted and evaluate where it is you might have thrown your shirt in all the confusion, for some unknown reason and largely down to squares who seem to delight in inhuman cruelty and getting in the way of primal urges, both the arsehole record execs who nearly censored this slice of solid genius and the idiots who’ve politicised our dating, MC5 says a uproarious ‘fuck you’ to both of them. Spin this for your loved one and it’ll work a cinch on you both. You’ll meet eyes and just silently communicate fuck this backstabbing and backbiting and back to school shit, let’s Kick out the jams motherfucker. ‘Kick out the jams’, contrary to popular belief, began as a band in-joke to ditch all the weak-ass jams bands were a little too keen on doing; a variation on the classic ‘get off the stage’ lines drunk idiots in Glasgow have been polishing since they were shat into this world.
Now I’m starting to sweat, you know my shirt’s all wet, what a feeling!
What the MC5 present you with is one of the tightest live albums of the sixties. Capturing better than almost any other the nude energy of a sweaty night braced against the front barrier being bowled over by the steamtrain that is the Motor City Five, made of Detroit steel, motherfucker! Without excepting moment the band feel totally tight, that magical sweet-spot where they probably live together and have formed into a cohesive team, a single rhythm driven entity with the drummer setting the pace and the bass and guitar shoring up both drunken banjo-legs attempting to stagger into somewhere while Rob Tyner keeps up a steady rough and masculine hip-thrusting proudness of vocal tone, carrying the full weight of I Want You Right Now pretty much solo and descending into the kind of translucently-veiled references that would have the more prudish members of whatever crowd you’ve emptied the barrels of this masterpiece into going white and steadying themselves against the furniture. While not achieving that drug-infused insane speed and energy embodied by High Rise in their Live album, MC5 hold a much closer tone. Being Rolling Stone cover stars back before that publication paid the price for existing too long and sold its soul to Satan for a ten dollar advert and a four-star Madonna review and being almost certain to sell a hundred thousand copies of Kick Out the Jams just from the buzz created around the use of the word ‘motherfucker’ so could afford to release an album of material containing nothing but their most strenuous workouts captured verbatim in a wild hallucinogenic haze because all those poor trend-following saps have no idea what they’re getting themselves in for ‘till they set the needle down and immediately get trapped against one wall for the duration by the sonic waves washing like a tsunami out of the speakers and over everything, quick! Save my vinyl before these madmen ruin everything!
So important was this album in so many ways. At the time it put Detroit on the map as rock city, from whence an entire plethora of extreme noise-makers would emerge, most burning extremely bright for only an album or so before vanishing back into the earth; and today it’s more important than ever and getting more important with each listen because it embodies true rock and roll. Burning bright and explosive passion and energy the sort that would make dreary cynicism merchants like Ed Fucking Sheeran just about faint. It is my earnest belief that this kind of rock and roll isn’t made anymore, it is no longer an infinite well of pleasure we can just dip into, it’s finite and all the more precious.
You know what else, Generation X fucked up Generation (wh)Y. We’ve all gotta pretend we’ve got ‘issues’ and ‘baggage’. I honestly know twenty-something pricks who pretend, and have pretended for such a long time that they genuinely seem to believe their own bullshit, that they are too emotionally damaged to have a fucking evening of rubbing each other wrong all night long. What in the name of all that is precious is going on in this world where affluent and intelligent students on the cusp of adulthood have to act like they’re fiftysomething manic depressives just to pretend like they have character? Wear a suit jacket, learn Esperanto or start having a monocle or smoking a pipe; those are bullshit affectations we erect around ourselves to pretend we aren’t just sweaty idiots wandering through a haze of decisions far too big for us and doing our best to remember to eat and shave. Don’t pretend like you’re some Gulf War veteran with emotional problems because the difference between that and a bubble-pipe is that a bubble-pipe makes me want to hang out with you. Whining about how you have problems makes me want to leave. Friends reading this, I drink to escape my problems, not take on yours. You are an arsehole if you pretend like you’re too damaged to just screw like you both want to, and that’s the truth. The truth may be hard to swallow, but not as hard as a dinner plate, so don’t talk to me about it anymore, alright? Bands too nowadays have got to pretend like they have some ulterior motive. Like singing songs about screwing and breaking up isn’t good enough. As if the titanic riffs brought down by the Motor City Five are somehow beneath all the arseholes. Kick Out the Jams has no preconceptions and no pretensions. The lyrics are unashamedly about one of the two things twenty-somethings ought to be interested in, making love and being the star of your own personal rock musical. Swaggering and joyously brash in a way frontmen increasingly don’t seem to consider; this baby, it’s the magnum opus of exactly that kind of soul-singing tight-crotch pants masquerading as the talent.
Kick Out the Jams, song, album, attitude, is a piece that inspires the most volume-testing of listening. How loud does your stereo go? One of mine goes up to 50, the other to 30, and I know that because of Kick Out the Jams and the MC5. There just isn’t a decibel level high enough to give this record the airing it deserves. I want to play it all day and all night, run it like a nightlight and stay up for days just contemplating what mammoth arrangement of amplifiers all focused in on me could give me the full experience without making me go Scanners before the end of that caterwauling Rambin’ Rose cover.
After a multitude of listens, I’ve come to a conclusion using Kick Out the Jams about how to solve your relationship problems people of Generation (wh)Y. Go now, whatever time it is and however far it is to that very special person you’d most like to rub each other wrong all night long and tell them how you feel. If you’ve snared them, tell them exactly how you feel about them, if you ain’t, tell them that you’re sick of all this politicking because it’s getting in the way of all the sweet love you could be making and sweet hearts you oughta be breaking. When you see someone and fall in love with them, after ten seconds or ten years, tell that motherfucker that you’re a true motherfucker. Don’t spend your youth pretending to have issues, spend it being glad the only issue you got is making your booze money go as far as possible. Don’t hide behind a veil of aloofness or a chemical haze, drop out of life with arms around that very special person and unleash Kick Out the Jams to help pace yourselves. What the MC5 have unleashed here is not an album, a meagre collection of songs strung together and played on a record player. It’s a rampant animal more concerned with getting it’s rocks off than explaining itself to you so you better brace yourself. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a testimonial. The MC5!
Written under duress by Steven.