The Paisley Umbrella: Thee Vicars "Back On The Streets"
Along come Thee Vicars, a band not yet out of their teens from the shit town Bury St. Edmunds. They're loud, snotty, and play loud garage punk rock 'n' roll! That's enough for you to go get it, but I'll tell you a little more. Their Dirty Water Records debut Back On The Streets is a celebration of controlled rock 'n' roll noise from start to finish. Although one would hasten to call it garage punk, but garage and punk. It's garage rock with an obnoxious, '70s punk rock attitude. Truthfully, that sounds too academic. "Introducing Thee Vicars" is a chaotic free-for-all of surf guitars, crashing cymbals, and howls from the depths. If ideas of what is good rock 'n' roll can actually be set to music, this is a perfect illustration. Not hard, but finally, someone has the guts to do it. Leave it to the kids to remind us that we're too old! The title track is raw and highlighted with a lot of tasty r & b styled guitar riffs from lead guitar Reuben Kemp. "Why Have You Changed" is just raw and dirty. It would have been cool to hear Mike Whittaker's vocals a little louder, but it's rock 'n' roll that sounds live, setbacks included instead of studio manipulation. "Mindless Squares" is classic garage rock with a short beat, but the tambourine and occasional crashing cymbals from Jasper Kemp range from inventing one's own add-ins to the beat to something out of the book of Animal. "Budget Rock" is great! It's got a faster beat and bass from Mike Whittaker to make the song feel like nothing less than a good '70s British punk kick in the ass, only with more distortion, which results in the rebellion being music, not a message. "Small Town Blues" is almost minimalist with its searing guitar solo and not much blues, but more of a "fuck you!"
"Back On The Streets" has 16 songs. I'm not going to go through all of them, but the overall impression is that Thee Vicars have to be the most talented bunch of obnoxious, snotty kids to come along, but the recording is a little schizophrenic as a stereo recording done in low fidelity, as if Thee Vicars are too fucking good musically but don't want to admit it. However, the sound itself feels like a live show. As much as so many bands over the years have attempted to duplicate the live sound, the distortion on the recording actually does sound live because it's so static and the compromises in hearing what Mike whittaker is trying to say or Reuben's lead guitar sounding louder on tracks like "They Lied To You" just aren't important, although the refrain on it is just perfect! The honest truth is that maybe Thee Vicars have come to play and they don't care if you can hear what they're saying since your ears are going to be too occupied with them already. Besides Mike screams like Iggy did and hasn't done since "TV Eye". The album also has plenty of songs where everything comes together like the double fuzz guitar wail of "I'll Hunt You Down" or the bass heavy "I Don't Wanna Be Like You", which could be a long awaited response to those who used to think "I hope I die before I get old." It's telling many of us that we are old. Sigh.
This is a great time for rock 'n' roll. There is a greater number of awesome garage rock bands out there, but Back On The Streets feels like a warning that Thee Vicars are here, they don't need to be schooled, and they're just getting started. Older, more experienced bands will love them too, but knowing that these guys are going to replace them. Afterall, rock 'n' roll is rebellion, it's for the young. Rock 'n' roll has some simple requirements: It should be loud and it should piss off your parents. So when was the last time we heard something that did those things? A long time, right? Everything is a target market. Punk is for profit. Rebellion is packaged. You can buy Clash shirts at the mall (we miss you, Joe Strummer (21 August 1952–22 December 2002)). In truth, very few things come along these days that grab us by the yarbles and shake us furiously out of ourselves. That's what rock 'n' roll should do. Thee Vicars do that louder than anyone I've heard in a long time, but the beats are way older and the melodies basic on songs like "The Dreaded Day Job" that it's garage rock with straight punk rock attitude and volume. There's no mod coolness here, just older, basic garage rock songs that have more volume, distortion, and rebellion in the noise than anything out there considered "garage rock", but the talent is undeniable. Even on songs like "Leavin' Here" (not the cover), which has a familiar melody that's been duplicated by many for years, Thee Vicars throw it on the floor and take turns kicking it into submission as their own invention.
Back On The Streets is rock 'n' roll. Loud, obnoxious, based on old stuff beaten up in to something new. It's music to piss off your parents, although most of us don't live with them anymore (I hope). Buy it anyway. You'll want your parents to hear it just so you can feel young again.