A band called The Sonics from right down the highway in Tacoma, Washington just put out a new LP called This Is the Sonics. This is important because (1) they’re awesome and (2) they put out their first garage/psych rock record 50 years ago.
Fifty. Five-oh. Let that roll around in your head for a minute.
There’s a very good chance that you were not born when The Sonics put out their first record. I know. I wasn’t.
The Sonics are still well known in these parts, since they’ve influenced practically every Seattle-area rocker since releasing their first single in 1964, “The Witch” b/w “Psycho.” They were raw and edgy, both musically and lyrically, in an era of sugary pop. They did a pretty wicked version of “Louie Louie.” They burned hot and by 1967 it was basically over with the guys scattering to the rock ‘n’ roll winds. But the demand was there, so they reformed in 2007 and have been playing various festivals and shows here and there, often with guest members. The current five-piece includes three of the original members, so this isn’t simply one guy carrying on the name to a brand new ensemble; it’s the real deal. These guys have been rocking for half a century, and it shows.
This Is the Sonics could just as easily be from 1965 as 2015. There aren’t a bunch of new touches or fancy techniques here. This is garage rock, the way it’s meant to be played. Gritty, with yelling and organs and saxophones and songs about bad women and bad break-ups. Sonically it’s like taking Little Richard, Elvis, an aggressive Paul McCartney, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Jack White, putting them in a blender filled with whiskey and broken glass, then pouring the whole thing out onto an old microphone.
Let’s just say if I need to call ya,
I dial 666.
— “I Got Your Number”
The Sonics were very much proto-punk and they still are today, keeping nine of This Is the Sonics’ dozen tracks at under three minutes. They get in, tear it up, and get out. The second half of the record has what the strongest material in “I Got Your Number” and “Livin’ In Chaos,” a pair of burners, one more heavy blues rock, the other a raspy screamed attack on the world.
Kudos to The Sonics for going old school and both recording this in mono and releasing it on vinyl. As an added bonus, the vinyl comes with a CD copy of the entire album. I picked up my copy for a paltry $18 – a pretty solid bargain in these days of $25-30+ new releases. The Sonics still sound edgy and aggressive, and This Is the Sonics is guaranteed to get your foot pushing a bit harder on the accelerator, so driver beware. Or better yet, roll down the windows, get out on the highway, turn it up, and just drive man.