Sunday, May 28, 2017

Here are Control Freaks!

So we literally waited a dozen years for new music from Greg Lowery. Just based on the sheer passage of time, there had to be cause for concern. Would the 2017 version of Greg Lowery still be the guy we so fondly remembered, or would he have reinvented himself as a serious "artist" backed by his own orchestra and choir? What if he'd been spending the last dozen years writing a triple LP rock opera about his feelings? What if he'd decided to go electronic? Okay, I'm lying. No one ever had cause for concern. Greg Lowery will never make "serious" music, and he will never call himself an artist. That is why we love him, and that is why we already knew that Control Freaks' Mindless Entertainment would be one of the year's mandatory punk rock purchases. In fact, I must recommend bypassing the rest of this review and proceeding immediately to the Slovenly Recordings web store or Bandcamp page to secure your copy. Seriously: go buy the thing! If you're still reading right now, you are stubborn and disobedient. I must say those are qualities that I admire.

If you were one of those individuals who could never get into Lowery's terrific Zodiac Killers because they deviated from the Supercharger/Rip Offs/Infections blueprint, Bay Area sensations Control Freaks should be much, much more to your liking. Mindless Entertainment fully lives up to its title - delighting all who crave the sort of trashy and wonderfully stupid punk rock goodness that made Lowery a household name. And with so few bands even trying to pull off this type of thing today, it might as well be the g.o.a.t. who steps up and shows the kids how it's done. What's cool about this band is the way Lowery and his co lead singer Natalie Sweet (The Shanghais) play off of each other. The two take turns on lead vocals, and some songs are straight-up duets. That snotty co-ed vocal blend brings to mind many of my favorite Rip Off Records releases, and clearly this was a band formed in the spirit of the glory days of garage-punk. The band finds that-just right mix of raw, obnoxious, and epidemic-level catchy. The theme song "Control Freaks" launches a rocket straight back to the Rip Offs' heyday, and then the fantastic "PTSD" features a star turn from Sweet on lead vocals (the one-sheet hilariously likens her singing to an "Edith Bunker impression"!). If that 1-2 punch doesn't have you sold on Control Freaks, then I'm going to surmise that the rest of the record will not sway you to the dark side. The rest of us, however, will bask in vintage Lowery bangers such as "Hollywood" (a song so dumb that you might not realize how smart it is) and "Crime Wave". Being such a sucker for good old '77 punk, I'm also quite partial to "Blowtorch Love" (which brings to mind the almighty Infections) and the band's terrific take on Jack & The Rippers' "No Desire". And if I say that "Sweet Dreams" sounds like it could have been a Shanghais song, that should only be construed as high praise!

If you have loved just about every piece of music that Greg Lowery has ever attached his name to, Mindless Entertainment will not disappoint. This is my favorite record he's played on in two decades (and I did really like Zodiac Killers). The fact that he shares the spotlight with one of the top punk vocalists of the present day really adds freshness and relevance to what Control Freaks are doing. And with so many newer "garage" bands lacking the rawness and fun attitude that ought to be considered essential to this genre, Mindless Entertainment most definitely fills a void. Sing it with me: C.O.N.T.R.O.L!


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