's Black EP was their self-released six-track demo, originally packaged and distributed by the band in 1999. It represented the group's sonic calling card, that at the time laid the foundation for what would define their sound over the course of the next two records up until Alive & Amplified
in 2004. This newly re-released 2006 version retitled The Maximum Black EP
on the V2 label has been updated with five previously unreleased bonus tracks that date from the time period of the original recordings.
It's very apparent from the start that Sammy James, Jr.
and company have a strong love of loud, in your face '60s garage rock & roll, amped up with a dash of '70s punk and glam. Combining the twin guitar attack of the MC5
and the harmonizing vocal style of the Kinks
and the Who
coupled with a tight rhythm section, the energy put forth on this debut effort is truly amazing. Three of the tracks featured here eventually made it on to Mooney Suzuki
's first full-length album People Get Ready
on Estrus records. In fact, the group was signed to Estrus based on the strength of the original version of the Black EP along with their amazing high-energy live performances.
On the first six tracks the guitar tones scorch and sizzle like a hot grease fire burning away all the fat until all that's left is a pure fuzzed out rock & roll meltdown. The music kicks off with the simple droning opening riff of the instrumental song "And Begin." It's a classic rock & roll call to arms that sets the stage for the next five tracks with its intensity and sonic grit. "Half of My Heart" starts off sounding like Bob Seger
's "Rambling Gambling Man" with a hand-clapping driving drumbeat. James
turns in a passionate vocal performance while the guitar sound displays the perfect vintage fuzz tone. The guitar solo sounds as if all the speakers in Graham Tyler
's amp blew, but in just the right way to make it sound like a beehive transmitting from outer space. The group does take the high-energy vibe down a notch slightly with the song "My Dear Persephone." This track would feel right at home on any of the Nuggets
box sets; it shows how the group can change it up and that it's not always about loud guitars all the time. Here there's more of an eerie, jangly guitar sound with a revolving bassline and double-time drums that lead into lyrics that speak about craving the attention of a beauty named Persephone. Instead of a blasting guitar solo the listener is treated to a tasteful organ solo that better fits the foreboding feel of the song.
The five bonus tracks show a slightly more refined approach, with an early Beatles
and mod-rock influence. On tracks like "Right on By" and "This Lonely Land," the guitars are less raucous and tamer compared to the first six tracks, which are truly bombastic. The vocal harmonies shine here, especially on the chorus of "This Lonely Land." The track "You're Not There" could easily have been on Love
's first record. To finish it all off the band pulls out a soulful version of the Mike Coulter
-penned garage classic "I Can Only Give You Everything." It's the perfect closer for a record that anyone who loves garage rock should have in his or her collection.