Chrome Cranks 2xCD review by John Graham
Jul 20, 2007, 20:33
THE CHROME CRANKS Diabolical Boogie 2xCD
While neither innovators nor formula-synthesizing scientists, 1990s NYC punk-blues bruisers the Chrome Cranks always verged so close to spontaneous combustion that their explosiveness could well have come in handy on the Manhattan Project. Even the band's secondary material—e.g., the demos, live recordings, compilation appearances, and B-sides assembled here—show lead screamer (and former Your Flesh contributing writer) Peter Aaron and his wrecking crew on the constant precipice of self-immolation. Who needs depleted uranium?
That said, Diabolical Boogie isn't the band's most fiery and tempestuous outing—that would be Live In Exile, which burns hotter than a phosphorus suppository from beginning to end. Nor is it the best overall introduction to the Cranks' mania, and therefore Peter Aaron himself urges in the liner notes that “neophytes may want to start with either the eponymous debut or Dead Cool.”
Diabolical Boogie also exposes the Cranks' one glaring flaw: their too-overt debts to previous mentors. When they ape the Gun Club (“Sacred Soul”), they shed their own raunchy persona for that of a Jeffrey Lee Pierce tribute band. When they cover the Germs (“Shut Down (Annihilation Man)”), Aaron's usual fireball scream is thinned by his spirit-channeling of Darby's infamous nasal yarl. And elsewhere you'd swear that Aaron had left the mic duties to the Cramps' Lux Interior, Pussy Galore's Jon Spencer, or even a young Nick Cave in his Birthday Party overload mode.
However, there are some great and unexpected surprises. For starters, an improbable version of Daniel Johnston's “The Devil Is in Texas” contorts Johnston's quirky whines into a doomy, echoing space-blues number unrecognizable from the original. Elsewhere, acoustic guitars sneak into the studio, and even breathy and ephemeral Elysian Fields vocalist Jennifer Charles makes a much-unexpected appearance on “Queen of Tomorrow.”Â The Cranks as ethereal balladeers? Inconceivable! And they even cover indie-synth spazzboys Brainiac!
But what's most important is that Diabolical Boogie proves, once and for all time, what fans already knew: The Chrome Cranks could annihilate two chords as well as any band of their era. I miss 'em. I miss 'em bad. At least Diabolical Boogie gives me some extra meat to chew on for a while. [Atavistic]