Saturday, January 16, 2021

1970 Album of the Week, January 15-21: Back in the USA, by MC5

Prefatory Note:

I came up with the "1970 Album of the Week" idea as 1) a way to easily boost my posting frequency by 52 per year, and 2) hopefully be interesting -- 1970 was a REALLY cool year in music, IMO.

This is the third installment. The first two got zero comments. It seems to me that that may mean I was wrong on reason number 2.

And that means this may be the last installment, which would sadden me a little bit, as I've already picked the albums for the feature through May and some of them are really special.

I guess we'll see. But I'm not in the business of writing stuff I don't expect anyone to read or respond to.

We Now Return You to Our Regular Programming

When I think of MC5, I think of Kick Out The Jams, their debut (and live!) album. I also think of MC5 almost entirely in terms of my younger days when they were frequently name-checked (along with the Stooges) as pioneers of a genre I really dug: Punk. Kick Out The Jams certainly justifies that claim.

Wikipedia tells me (with a "citation needed" note) that the thing about Back in the USA is that "[t]he central focus of the album is the band's movement away from the raw, thrashy sound pioneered and captured on [Kick Out the Jams]." So it includes a Little Richard cover ("Tutti Frutti"), a Chuck Berry cover (the title track), and a ballad that I don't like much at all ("Let Me Try").

Citation needed or not, yeah, this is not the MC5 of Kick Out The Jams. It's pretty cool though, and if the sound isn't as "raw, thrashy," it's still great (and showcases what talented musicians they actually were). It also still in places incorporates their politics, which ranged from Marxist to anarchist -- their manager, John Sinclair, wrote for The Fifth Estate, which I read in print occasionally in the late 1980s around the time that John Zerzan was moving from that periodical to Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (their site isn't working at the moment I'm writing this), which I was also heavily into.

If I could only take one MC5 album to a desert island with me, it wouldn't be this one. But if I was only allowed to take this album to a desert island with me, I'd play it a lot. If I had a phonograph. And electricity.

Here's "The American Ruse":

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