Kick Out The Jams


Elektra Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Scott Floman


Welcome to the true birthplace of grunge. Originally released in 1969, "this album of songs is a microcosm of the times that spawned it," according to singer Rob Tyner. Recorded live on Halloween night at Detroit's Grande Ballroom, the album boasts an incredible, manic energy, and my respect for this grizzled crew has grown exponentially with repeated listens.

Kick Out The Jams is a true rock original, an impressive but dated document. Listening to "Religious Leader And Spiritual Advisor," Brother J.C. Crawford's fiery introduction (with his "I wanna hear some revolution out there, brothers" and "are you ready to testify?" propaganda) is mildly amusing, and his fever pitched incantations are continued by lunatic frontman Tyner, most notably during his infamous "kick out the jams, motherfuckers" introduction to the explosive title track. This controversial line got the album banned from Detroit's largest music distributor, Hudson's. When the band took it upon themselves to take out a local ad saying "Fuck Hudson's," their record label, Elektra was none too pleased, instantly dropping the band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band kicks, with a violently loud psychedelic assault that is primal metal thunder with a dash of avant-jazz, highlighted by the distorted dual guitar madness of Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith. Some of these songs are concise statements of garageland fury, such as "Ramblin' Rose" and "Borderland." Other tracks such as "Rocket Reducer No. 62" and "I Want You Right Now" are more indulgent, with the band reveling in their fuzzed out sonic attack. The MC5 also demonstrate an impressive versatility, effectively doing a straight up blues on "Motor City Is Burning," and tackling Sun Ra's "Starship." Unfortunately, on this attempt the band falters, as their avant-garde experimentation overreaches with sometimes embarrassing results.

Kick Out The Jams is an important historical document, since the MC5 were also alleged inspirations for many punk combos. It contains quite a few moments of greatness, transporting the listener to a far away time as true rebels from another era emphatically state their essence. It sounds like it would've been awe-inspiring had I been there and embraced their "dope, guns, and fucking in the streets" credo, and hell, they still sound unlike anybody else. If the MC5's music didn't always hold up as well as the revolutionary "punk" ideals that spawned it, this album proves that on a good night these motherfuckers could indeed kick out the jams with the best of them.

Rating: A-

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© 1997 Scott Floman and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.