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Murder City Devils

Lord knows they must've had fun conceptualizing and executing the artwork for this CD. The fold-out booklet depicts various artifacts (a pistol and a switchblade, syringes, whiskey bottle, etc.) along with a raft of snapshots purportedly taken by a crime-scene examiner showing how each of the six Devils, plus one roadie, met a gruesome, blood-splattered end (according to the press kit, by hanging, stabbing, asphyxiation, blunt trauma to head, beating, gunshot wounds and "abdominal goring with broken bottle").

In like fashion, Seattle's most overlooked heavy garage outfit clearly had a bloody good time putting together the music. Not really gore-punkers, but clearly inspired on occasion by gory B-movies and mid-'70s proto-punk, the Murder City Devils' brand of old-school is potent, hook-crammed fun. "Idle Hands" harks back to the late, great Union Carbide Productions with its propulsive beat, descending guitar riff, dark organ drone, and the edge-of-hoarseness vocals from Spence Woody. "Demon Brother" is pure rawk convulsion, again marrying keyboards to guitars, the former churning manically and the latter's twin-ax assault slashing and stuttering like Keith Richards and Billy Gibbons in a cage fight. "In This Town" could be a long-lost Radio Birdman outtake, equal parts Motor City-styled skronk and gothic surf. "Bunkhouse" is Iggy Pop drunkenly attempting to navigate "Louie Louie" before a hostile crowd of rednecks and bikers. And the epic feel and sweeping anthemism of the closing number "Fields of Fire" suggest no less than a summit meeting of the Dead Boys and Blue Öyster Cult -- not a bad bit of generational straddling, eh?

The Murder City Devils may stand for a bygone era, that period during the '70s when it was still cool to have a lot of disparate influences unite under a shared banner of visceral, brainy hard rock, but it's pretty hard to imagine banner-wavers getting much in the way of props or respect these days. Other groups, such as the aforementioned Union Carbide Productions, have taken up the banner at various points in the past, usually to modest critical acclaim but diminishing returns at the box office. All the more reason to embrace the Devils and their kind. Because while fashion is ephemeral, classic rock 'n' roll style is forever.