If your tastes embrace a Yardbirds/Blue Oyster Cult combo with a dollop of punk and a spoonful of '60s garage rock, you'll eat up the Droogs alive. As charter members of the Best Kept Secrets In Rock Club, they've been together in Los Angeles since 1972, releasing a series of stunning neo-garage 45s on their own label long before anyone thought of either pillaging the '60s or rolling their own indie singles. Later they moved on to albums and a more conventional, '70s-oriented hard-rock sound (not always to their aesthetic benefit), but they've never made anything remotely resembling a bad record.
Singer Ric Albin wields a classic rock snarl, and his lyrical twists repay close attention, but Atomic Garage's star attraction is guitarist Roger Clay. Nearly every song, from the riveting tunes like "Puzzled Mynds" to the less compelling "Two Headed Snake," is lit up by an incandescent solo flare of guitar the breaks on "Letter To The Times" and "That Dangerous Year" are particularly ferocious firestorms.
More restrained material like the folk-rocking "Gold Inside A Shrine" and "Talk Thru The Night" (which harks back to their '60s roots and could be a Chocolate Watchband outtake) also shines. Not everything sparkles, but when they're on, as they generally are, the Droogs just could be the best band you've never heard of.
This has far more authenticity as a Garage/Psych/Rock and Roll release than 96% of the Estrus age stuff out there, as this group rather than sounding like a new band trying to be retro, actually sounds like a great 60's/70's band doing their best to make a good album. It'll Droog-ify you!
Neither obscurity (nor folding labels like PVC), nor change in musical fashion, nor gloom of night (or the club scene) can alter L.A.'s Droogs from their appointed rounds: it is their solemn duty to record warped, tough-sounding, barb-wire psychedelic rock and boppin' bubblegum pop undercut by Roger Clay's startling spacey, scraped fuzz guitar. (Got news for Jesus and Mary Chain, Spaceman 3, and Flying Saucer Attack devotees: Droogs were at this while the Reid bros. and co. were in grade school, going back to a string of lo-fi singles two decades before that term existed--see the 1987 German retrospective Anthology.) When you hear singer Ric Albin, you still hear the MC5, the Yardbirds, Howling Wolf, the Seeds, the Kingsmen, Pebbles/Nuggets groups, and everyone else whose every lyric meant no-nosense (yet cool) business. And like the Wipers, Droogs keep the songs simple and repetitive, so that Clay (like Greg Sage) can blow your mind bending his strings every which way. Wild, wild, wild and great! Feel your mind (and ears) expand.
-The Big Takeover
Bands can yak all they want about who's more D.I.Y., or more indie, or has more 'garage band' attitude all they want, but they'd be hard pressed to find a band that fits that description better than L.A.'s Droogs.
Songwriters Ric Albin (vocals) and Roger Clay (guitar) have been friends and musical co-conspirators since they were kids, forming their first band, Savage Rose, in the late 60's. In 1972 they formed the Droogs and released their first single on their own Plug n Socket label in 1973. Out of step with current trends even then, they went against the typical musical climate and released this single with two '60s punk covers by the Sonics and the Shadows Of Knight to underground critical acclaim. Fast forward to 1996, and after a scattering of seven-inches released in the '70s, and albums in the '80s (they didn't release a full length until 1984!), the Droogs are back with "Atomic Garage."
Recorded over a year or so period in singer Ric Albin's house using a mixture of analog and digital equipment, including their collection of weird, vintage 1960s guitars and amps, the album again finds them oblivious to todays musical trends. Ric, Roger, bassist Dave Provost (Textones, Dream Syndicate, and Davie Allen And The Arrows) and drummer Ty Rio have created the Droogs' best album since 1987's dark masterpiece, Kingdom Day.
"Puzzled Mynds" kicks off the release, a great psych-rock number with fuzzed-out guitar and sneering vocals. "Guerrilla Love-In," which was the title of their last studio album from 1992, (on the German Music Maniac label) is a poppish tune with "sweet" vocals in the style of L.A.'s power-pop icons the Plimsouls. "T.V. Man" features crazy bongo playing over an MC5/Stooges inspired guitar wash. "Gold Inside A Shrine" and the closing number "Talk Thru The Night" are acoustic-based ballads, the latter featuring some inspired harp playing by Ric. "Tell The World" is a very strong song with excellent lyrics and a rollicking beat. "Two-Headed Snake," at eight-plus minutes, finds the band back in Stooges territory with some distorted, crunching guitar effects going wild.
My only complaint about this release is the somewhat lackluster drumming on a few songs, which sound either augmented by, or even performed by, a machine. The stiffness hampers what would otherwise be a perfect album for lovers of introspective psych-garage-rock. That aside these guys have been hammering it out for 23 years and deserve some long overdue attention.
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