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Children of Nuggets


Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts of the Second Psychedelic Era 1976-95



various artists 4xCD

Children of Nuggets box set coverFrom those wonderful folks that brought you the reissue of Lenny Kaye's classic compilation album of "Nuggets" of sixties-psych and garage rock comes, The Children of Nuggets. Nuggets were originally double LPs of American psychedelic music, then as a four CD box-set from Rhino Records. Rhino soon after released England's cry from overseas, a sister box-set release of English sixties-psych and garage "Nuggets". Now Rhino brings the bands that integrated the old psych sound into a new-wave of sounds inspired from psych's origin.

The American and English box sets are stellar examples of the trend in boxes. These boxes are the truest example of what a makes a box release great. The sound investment pays off in standards that one knows and loves, rare and lost tracks and bands that may have just floated to oblivion with out being lovingly dusted-up and returned to the archives of their respective category in rock and roll's history. Children of Nuggets is a tough release that combines the older purists and the newer listener that may not even know, or care, about the historic nods the seventies, eighties and nineties bands make to the sixties forefathers.

On first glance, Children of Nuggets track lists makes me realize that I am in the purist category. Early psych and garage were my first loves as a child. My young ears and brainwaves were hot-wired to the organ and guitar tremolo mixed with rebel rousing energy. I read the bands that appear on this box and was surrounded by question marks orbiting my head. The Soft Boys, The Smithereens, The Godfathers, That Petrol Emotion, Plimsouls, Teenage Fanclub, these are psych bands? Okay, The Lyres, Fleshtones, The Cramps, Bevis Frond, Chesterfield Kings (a band I first thought was a sixties band by title and deed) and even The Hoodoo Gurus and Long RydersP I will allow them. But none of these bands has the same cool sheen that radiates only from the grungey roots mystique of the early rebel sound. This seems like a track list of a who's who bands that sank under the swells of the new independent radio waves.

Less colorful than the earlier boxes from Rhino, with its silver and gray overall coloration the look is consistent with prior Nuggets releases but colder and cleaner. Collages of the original singles and albums of the bands appear on the individual CD glossy insets. Each jewel case contains a single page of graphics. No foldout. Track listing on the CD back cover has a continuation of the collage on the cover with track lists in the simpler format that is used for the English Nuggets box. There is no need for extensive liner notes. As with the previous two boxes, there is an extensive booklet with annotated track-by-track band/song history. Little Steven Van Zandt (The E Street Band, Sopranos and radio personality) writes the liner notes along with Nigel Cross (music critic) and co-producers Alec Palao (critic and staff member of Ace Records and Zombies-phile) and Gary Stewart. Kieron Tyler (music critic/writer) provides the track-by-track commentary. The booklet also makes use of press photo's and concert to posters, as was done in other Nuggets box sets.

CD1 starts with The Dukes of the Stratosphear and the song, Vanishing Girl. It is a competent and studied tip to the psych-past. A true tribute to earlier sounds and album title, Psonic Psunspots, shows smart, good-humored intention. Next is The Lyre's classic garage inspired, I Want To Help You Ann. No doubt a true child/spawn seeded in the true sixties tradition. No argument here. The other tracks that channel the best past on CD 1 are The Lime Spiders-Slave Girl and The Swinging Neckbreakers- I Live for Buzz. The passion, the snarl, the acid gut leaps out from the heart and not the head. The tracks all have a feel and sound that is evidently psych influenced and studied. Most cuts are jangley guitar send-ups of psych-pop bands like The Zombies, The Hollies, and The (McGuinn) Byrds.

The Flamin' Groovies- I Can't Hide is the most successful head-over-heart track of CD 1. The Soft Boys- Wading Through a Ventilator is a great track and is probably the loosest addition to the catlogue. It is a bold and attention-grabbing choice. Biff! Bang! Pow! Is also another bold choice and was the title of a song by The Creation on Nuggets II.

In the original Nuggets tradition bands appear that are far under known. Salvation Army, The Spongetones, The Stems, The Nashville Ramblers and all have the correct sounds to be acceptable and there is not one moment that makes you cringe at the addition of any known, or unknown band. Even when you hear the earlier pre-fame incarnation of The Smithereens, it works. It works in sound and influence and as a child of the parent.

CD2's first track is the assailing guitar sonic sound of The Godfather's This Damn Nation. A great track of killer post-punk guitar sounds. A song that is from a band that has better psych tracks in its arsenal but no better track in their lineage and a bold and borderline addition. The next Song is in the same vein. Dream Syndicates-Tell Me When It's Over. It is far more Velvet Underground via Zombies than true psych. But another loose addition that is a great rock tune tip to the psych era's guitar arrangement and reverb vocals. The Cramps New Kind of Kick is the fourth cut and is in the tradition of The Lyres passion for the past. Sinister, sexual and snarling it has a bold, solid psych skeleton and heart. The guitar is new psych filtered through punk. Irreverent and campy The Cramps float between the silly and serious. Vibrasonic's- Kingsley J, (their earlier single release of this song was much better but far too long) almost falls into the silly category. But has enough of a serious structure and sound that it walks that tightrope between fromage and homage. The same goes for the big sound and motorcycle revving of the campy Revillo's track, Motorbike Beat. It is a bopping romp with female vocals and backing, psych and garage with hints at the lustiness of, The Leader of the Pack.

The Dukes of the Stratosphear are back on CD2 with a better and more studied psych track, 25 O'clock. Mixing art-psych guitar solos with rolling reverb and cheap organ sounds of the sixties, it even has a bite despite a studied intention. The Lyres, are also back again from CD1 with a more brilliant and true track, Don't Give It Up, i s far superior and "on-target" than their earlier addition the vocal sound, the organ and guitar are a reincarnate is serious heart and tenderly studied. The Dbs also have a track on CD 1 and reappear with a better song that is rougher while still being jangley and plotted. The Soft Boys return, as well, with the classic, I Wanna Destroy You. This song , like the track on CD1, is a mutant son of psych that contains the same genetics but is very different than the seeds grew from.

Under exposed bands appear on CD2, as well. The Crawdaddys, The Funseekers, The Green Telescope, The Droogs, The Revolving Paint Dream and the somewhat lesser-known, Mickey and the Milkshakes. The Green Telescope's- Make Me Shiver is an unknown stand out but the best of the unknown tracks is Mickey and the Milkshakes', It's You. This is a track that could pass as being from a prior era. It is dead-on from the heart and soul. But with a founding member being Billy Childish there is no doubt that the passion and commitment is there and not a ploy of style. The Milkshakes punk sensibility truly captures the rebel soul of earlier Nuggets compilations and true psych and garage rock.

You also get much more known bands like The LA's, The Posies, Teenage Fanclub, and the Bevis Frond. Bevis Frond, the most viable of the known bands and an indie and later psych standard, give us, Lights are Changing. Continuing to exploit his love and reverence for art and sixties psychedelic sounds and experimentations, Nick Solaman (Bevis Frond) has captured his intended sound of "Hendrix/The Wipers and Byrds sound that is distinctively British". Eerily close to the later release of The LA's pop tripe classic, There She Goes, Solaman's song is more intrinsic and passionate. The LA's are more L.A. lacking a heart and having the right rip-off fashions and musical styling and hooks. Solaman captures the essence of the garage and psych tradition because he recorded and re-released his work on his own and grew from the bedroom. Okay, it's not the garage but that is why he has a homier and more holistic psych quality that is very amiable and personal.

CD 3 begins with a lost favorite of the eighties, The Church's- Unguarded Moment. I was excited to see the track in the listings. Was it psych? I just remember it as a favorite from my art school daze. The song has a dreamy quality and the guitar work does have roots in psych but is a more romantic track than a dreamy and jangley psych that is the mainstay of these CDs, a great song regardless of its origins. The Chill's Pink Frost is another song that is a indie classic but is it psych? Its thread to the genre's past it is not a high-test strand. I was rather surprised to see it listed but love the song and it does have a dreamy and psych feel. It is hard to pinpoint the specific references. Like The Church's song, I am glad it is here and is a bold mix-in.

There are more understandable inclusions on CD3. The Last's L.A. Explosion is a garage song with a psych organ and sensibility. The low production recording adds to its historic feel. Julian Cope of Teardrop Explodes solo work, Sunspots, is another song updating the psych sound and production while staying rooted in the post new-wave and post punk era. A really smart and eclectic and original combination of early influences makes for a thought provoking and interesting listen. The Chesterfield KingsU effort on CD 3 shows that they are a solid throwback to earlier times. They have the look, the sound, and heart. The Mummies is true psych but more garage rock over psych. It is surfin' psych-a-billy guitar and is real as eighties tribute can get to the real thing. DMZ's Busy Man is another true psych indulgence. Starting like The Stooges it grinds and holds up in the psych-rebel cell. The Cynics do have a great track, Baby What's Wrong With Me. It is in the tradition of The Lyres with organ heavy but grittier psyched out rockin'.

Previously included bands also reappear on CD 3, The Flamin' Groovies, The Smithereens, The Spongetones, Plimsouls, The Fleshtones and Teenage Fanclub. The Spongetones second track owes more to The Beatles Please, Please Me than early psych music. Most reoccurrences are forgettable. The Teenage Fanclub's God Knows It's True is a far more successful psych invocation than the prior track in the box. God Knows is not just a successful psych song, but an equally good pop song. Religious conflict and love have never sounded so wrong but so rightP "God knows it's true. I think the devil knows it, too". It is a successful second coming and most on CD 3 are forgettable and lack a hook to latch onto. The Smitereens second song solidifies that their origins are from the psychedelic era that Nuggets chronicles and not a fluke but I still have a harder time with that association.

The final volume in the collection, CD 4 begins with Primal Scream's Gentle Tuesday. Again it is another jangling six-string rehash of Roger McGuinn's 12-srting strumming. I didn't know that they were a psych band. But the song is passable and not much thrill to it. The Three O'clock confidently update the pop styling of the era but the track also lacks adhesion. The Fuzztones confidently reissue the English psych sound a little too well as it collages moments from the original English psych and garage bands.

Of the lesser known bands like Sun Dial, The Bangs, United States of Existence, Tell-Tale Heart, The Unknowns, The Prisoners, Plasticland; Sun Dial does an amazing job with Plains of Nazca (single version). It is shortened from its epic original but is hard to distinguish from the original sixties bands. Sundial does lean to the art-psych of early Pink Floyd while delving into the sound of seventies art-psych band, Twink. This is my favorite of all tracks in The Children's box set, known or unknown. Tell-Tale Heart and Plasticland do a solid job conjuring up the past with a uncanny knack of sounding like the parent and not the child. Plasticland has the more up-to-date sound while fitting in the past.

The Bangs is really an early incarnation of The Bangles (they have the third track on CD 1). Their psych origins drifted afar as they became pop darlings. But the roots are psych as this prepubescent offering of The Bangs not only forecast what is to come from them but what came before them. Still it is steeped in the jangley tradition that permeates this set of CDs.

In keeping with CD 2 and 3, bands make second stabs at convincing you of their true psych roots. The Hoo Doo Gurus, Mickey and The Milkshakes, Rain Parade, The Vipers and The Raybeats give second helpings on CD 4. The Hoo Doo Gurus song, Like Wow-Wipeout, is a great rocker. The song truly pays tribute passionately while trying to expand the rock to a personal level. Billy Childish with Mickey and The Milkshakes strike gold, again, with Please Don't Tell My Baby. The sense of psych is inbred, tried and true. The Rain Parade is also a band that has always used psych as the bedrock of their inspiration. From Rain Parade to Opal and on to Mazzy Star, Dave Roback has crafted great new takes on psychedelia. The second iclusion, One Half Hour Ago, is better than the earlier track on CD 1. I think that The Rain Parade has more "psych" songs but in the context of this box it is apt and works to be one of the boxes tracks.

The Raybeats second track included in the box on DC 4 is Tight Turn (single version). This is James White and Blurt jamming with The Ventures and Link Wray. The sax and organ give the track soul and a bottom. This is a fantastic instrumental track. Instrumentals are far under represented in all the Nuggets boxes. This is a great early post-punk cut that is great in the box or off and one of the best of the collection.

CD 4 is the best CD of the set. CD 3 is the weakest. CD 4 shows a dedicated and updated sound that gives a more interesting look at how psych evolved. The bands on CD 4 are far more sensitive and able to borrow, eulogize and give rebirth to that old sixties sound. Despite CD 4's weak beginning it builds-up and constructs the most interesting moments of the box. CD 1 and 2 have their moments but are more fun than serious. The enjoyment is top-tapping and head bopping where CD 4 is more awe and wow. CD 3 left me cold.

When Nuggets II, the British psych box, came out I was skeptical. Despite some amazing bands like, The Creation, The Pretty Things and songs like My White Bicycle and My Friend Jack I didn't like the box after hearing it the first time. I was raised on American psych and was being provincial when not letting these bands into the fold. In the end, I like the Nuggets II better than the first. The first has too many poppy songs that became big hits. The English bands were more rebellious. Sure Americans like The Sonics, The Monks and The Seeds were raucous and rebellious but most were not as "punk" as the English bands on Nuggets II.

After three listens I found I liked The Children of Nuggets box better than my first initial reaction and then subsequent listening. But it falls flat. I don't see myself purchasing it and I have far less reverence for this collection then I have for Nuggets I + II. The early bands were where it all started with a sound that is still fresh today and has lessons to teach. The pupils of that education are here on this box but rarely reach the heights that many artist's of the sixties hover at and some continue to soar higher from Nuggets re-releasing those rare bands that may have faded and fell off the edge of the earth.

The times dictate that you will listen to the earlier Nuggets boxes and hear the later sounds that were inspired by those groundbreaking bands of the sixties. But with this compilation it is a look back from now to then. Understandably that is the intent. Yet there is a light, spacey, dream quality to the tracks on Children than what I see are the roots of psych. This makes Children of Nuggets less indigenous because it jangles. That Byrds, not Birds, jangle and Zombies pop sound is already second generation and none of these bands are included in original Nuggets boxes. When The Bangs, The LA's, Teenage Fanclub, Rain Parade revisit the psych-past they are now the grand children of psychedelia.

There are few moments of "wow!" on Children of Nuggets and mainly moments of "hmm". I find my mind stretching to be more forgiving of the later "inspired bands" than blown away. It seems to be more fashion than passion. More of a springboard and try-on/put-on than real meeting of like minds. Bands like The Lyres, Cramps, Mickey and the Milkshakes and Raybeats did more than just try on the suit. They are living and breathing the life and maybe are born in the wrong time?

Is there any staying power of bands like Primal Scream, Smithereens, That Petrol Emotion, Teenage Fanclub and The Lime Spiders? Despite their competence at excavating the past and re-adorning themselves in the old style will these bands be known 20 years later? Will they have the same inspirational quality that the early Nuggets bands from 40 years ago had? What do you think?

Like all the Nuggets that came before, the quality of crafting this box is the same. You get to hear bands that you may have never heard of and discover. You see the origins of musicians that have gone on to international acclaim before they were anybody. You get extensive background and history to boost your knowledge of the genealogy of psych. It is an archive of many aspects of the 1976-1995 era of psych. But it lacks in the groundbreaking quality of the early bands on Nuggets. It has all been done before and we do get bold additions like Soft Boys but what about bands like Spacemen 3, Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Walking Seeds, Thee Hypnotics, Hawkwind that really expounded on the former psych to create a new sound that owed a lot to the past.

Early psychedelica branched out into so many limbs that it is hard to pinpoint where it all went. So how do you archive what came from the roots? I guess you go with the most accessible and successful examples that people know and want to buy, while steering them to more experimental and under known artists. But with reproductions of the past each generation of reworking dilutes in the progression. The diluting of the sound is evident on Children of Nuggets but you still will get moments of pure clarity. Just don't expect to be bowled over but do expect some great songs that may not have the same balls as the songs of the sixties. The ground was already broken and this is what was built on that foundation. The many floors that elevate can't take you to the basement but to the heights where the air is thinner and colder. But the view can still make the rise beautiful, man.

---James F. Kraus, January 4, 2006