Local Wire

Various Artists

The wordless one-note howl that opens up Thai Beat A Go-Go swells up long and low from the belly of a jilted man. That single, baleful syllable makes one thing clear: Language may be regional, but heartache is universal. So, of course, is rock 'n' roll; it seeped into Thailand during the late '60s via neighboring Vietnam, where it was being broadcast over G.I. radio as a morale booster in a war that seemed increasingly unlikely for anyone to win. There are endless weird implications to the idea of invaded countries adopting the music of their invaders as a way to entertain them (since most of this music was intended for play in soldiers' clubs), but that's a bigger fish. What's here are vibrant and surprisingly spot-on pre-beat rock songs. It's Nuggets with curry sauce -- from Payom Moogda's revved-up rewrite of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" to the jiggling shift-dress shimmy of Sodsai Chaengkli's "Shake Baby Shake." There's a fair share of miscues -- a group called Starlights turns in a version of "Day Tripper" that's so wooden you're afraid to light up while listening to it -- but most of Thai Beat is as exhilarating as the Western prototype.
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J. Edward Keyes