Is The Greenhornes one of the first great recordings of 2001, or one of the last great recordings of 1965? Who cares?
"Can't Stand It," the opener, is 3:21 of a peak quality answer. Drummer Patrick Keeler's thunderous, mid-tempo back-beat first kicks you in the teeth. Then guitarists Craig Fox and Brian Olive strum some E-to-D-to-A electric swagger. Bassist Jack Lawrence and organist Jared McKinney aren't far behind, along with Fox's young, worn baritone howl, "Outta my mind/I just can't stand it ..." This is Rock at its most combustible, and the journey of its spark went something like this: black American guys from the '50s, to white English guys then white American guys from the '60s, to white American guys from the '90s. Five of them. From Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Greenhornes' second full-length release for Telstar Records, produced by former Afghan Whig John Curley, is a splendid, vintage hit singles collection. Simply put, this recording just sounds old. The R&B and Soul that evolved into Rock & Roll is all here. Stompers like "Can't Stand It" and "Lies" are ready for either a regional teen dance or AM radio, the brooding "Stay Away Girl" is the closer from your favorite obscure '60s B-movie, and Olive's slow-burn "Lonely Feeling" is a ballad from a drive-in memory.
Keeler and Fox recently spent some time with CityBeat. They indulged this music journalist with some good conversation while listening to Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, Lenny Kaye's Garage Rock singles compilation for Jac Holzman's Elektra Records. (What else, silly?)
Patrick Keeler: We played in front of him (Kaye) once.
PK: New York City. We played at this Garage Rock festival (Cavestomp! '99). It was cool.
CB: Did he come over and give you any feedback?
PK: I can't particularly say that I've ever sat down to talk to him. (laughs)
Craig Fox: I never even knew who he was. Someone said, "There's Lenny Kaye."
CB: How did The Greenhornes get on that bill?
PK: I called them. Kept calling them. Sent a record.
CF: The Standells played. The night before the Chocolate Watch Band played.
(All pause for a moment of reverent silence as the Standells' "Dirty Water" plays.)
PK: So I hung out with this guy (Dick Dodd, drummer/vocalist of the Standells) a lot. We did a little drum circle, actually. Really cool guy. He was freaking out about setting up the drums right. He comes out and says, "I really like the way you play. Will you go set up my drums?" It was really weird. Nice guy. We played with Question Mark (and the Mysterians, of "96 Tears" fame), like, twice before.
CF: I think the band calls him Q. (laughs)
PK: He's a crazy dude. He talked to me and Jack, our bass player, the first time we played with them, maybe a year-and-a-half ago, Toronto. Me and Jack are sitting in the dressing room ... They had asked us to find something to eat. Not Q, the other guys in the band.
CB: The Mysterians?!
PK: Yeah. They're all on stage, warming up, waiting for him, and he ends up talking to us for an hour. They're waiting for him. The manager comes over, "They're waiting for you!" He's like, "I'll be down in a minute!" He talked about how he needs to save his voice. He's talking to us for an hour. (He imitates the wary Q:) "Everybody wants to talk to me, but they don't realize my voice is my instrument." (laughs)
CB: I remember reading the Monks reunited for Cavestomp! '99. Did they hang out with you?
PK: Umm ... sort of. In a weird, indirect, Six Degrees of Separation kind of way. Their singer (Gary Burger), something happened where he couldn't sing. His voice was screwed-up. So the world's biggest Monks fan was there, who knew all of the lyrics, and sounded dead-on. They asked him to sing. We ended up being friends with that guy. He's an amazing, weird guy. Actually, he sent me a Christmas album that he did. It was four CDs long.
THE GREENHORNES perform May 9 at The Comet with label-mates The Swingin' Neckbreakers.