Stiv, Johnny, Joey . . . all gone, shuffled off to punk-rock heaven. Who's gonna be left to inspire the troops? Billy Joe Armstrong? A wimp! Dexter Holland? A poseur! The lead dork from friggin' Buck Cherry? Surely you jest! The recent VH1-Spin
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special on punk's first quarter-century felt more like a eulogy than a celebration, leaving a lot of questions not only unanswered but not even asked in the first place.
San Fran's Richmond Sluts have a few questions to ask, chief among them, "Can you feel it?" They look like they stepped outta some time capsule full of photos taken precisely at that point when glam rock and punk not-so-neatly intersected. The combined visual punch of leather jackets, thrift-shop mod duds, skinny ties, black jeans and my-girlfriend-clipped-it hairdos (ranging from a George Harrison moptop to a Johnny Ramone bob to a Ron Wood rooster shag) is très effective, conveying the perfect mix of surly 'tude, amphetamine swagger and urban cool. The back cover shot alone is priceless: Lined up against a crummy back-alley wall and chain-link fence, the quartet looks like the Ramones transplanted to Hamburg '62, or possibly the cast of Beatlemania auditioning for the Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers Story.
Musically, however, it's not a case of style over substance; these Sluts put out across 11 tunes that serve up a muscular blend of glam, punk and garage. Opening cut "Take You Home" is Lower East Side-meets-Sunset Strip heavy power pop (Dictators, Fast, Nerves, Plimsouls), all churning riffs, surging organ, sneering vox and a full-tilt rhythm section. "Bittersweet Kiss" is one of those sleazed-down Chuck Berry/Stones bastardizations that both the Stooges and the Dolls did so well, equal parts "No Fun" and "Subway Train" (and the Sluts bring in a real slut for some teasing backing vocals). "Paddy Wagon" is a cross between "Personality Crisis" and the Ramones' version of "California Sun," while "Sad City," with its Farfisa organ motif and bummed-out lyrics, could be a long-lost outtake from the Nuggets box of '60s punk/garage/psych. Naturally, any self-respecting NYC-style rockers will have some trash-rock dope tunes in their repertoire; here, "Thought I Was Dead" and "Junky Queen" fit the bill, along with a handful of others that concern themselves with variations on getting wasted, wanting/not wanting to die, getting wasted, countering boredom by fucking shit up, and, of course, getting wasted.
Okay, so maybe the Sluts ain't utterly original and won't necessarily be the next punk-rock messiahs. But maybe we don't need no steenkin' messiahs. Maybe it's just a question of temperature. It's cold outside, baby; the Richmond Sluts are here to raise that temp and then some, wham bam thank you, ma'am.