MC5 - Kick Out The Jams
Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.
Hard/Classic Rock
8 songs (40:00)
Release year: 1969
MC5, Elektra
Reviewed by Goat

Few bands represent the spirit of pure Rock like The Motor City Five, or MC5 as they’re better known, and Kick Out The Jams is a special moment of musical history. Not just did they represent a political party ('The White Panthers') that wanted to turn America into a paradise of free love and drugs, but they were dropped from their label Elektra for abusing a department store in print after they refused to stock this, the band's debut release – a live album, unusually for the time. The store refused because at the start of the second track, vocalist Rob Tyner yells, 'Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!', leading to (against the band’s wishes) two versions of the record being released, one with the expletive present (sold behind the counter) and one with it removed.

In case you’ve forgotten, the album was originally released in 1969 – yes, forty years ago, and whilst heavier albums may well have been released (I’ll take this opportunity to plug the excellent High Tide) Kick Out The Jams is a classic for many reasons, not least the sheer attitude it represented. Despite MC5 only releasing a few albums before their demise, this was incredibly influential, for the music as well as the attitude. It was so ahead of its time that the genre didn’t even get named (‘Protopunk‘) until years later, when Punk actually ‘happened’. MC5 along with fellow Detroit band The Stooges can be credited for the shape that Rock has taken over the last thirty years more than practically any other bands of that period. Of course, it all depends who you ask, but it’s undeniable that MC5 were one of the originators of (if not the original) Garage Rock, a genre that’s left its mark on music as a whole.

This release’s classic status is helped by the simple fact that the tunes contained are of an exceptionally high quality, or, putting it in language that the band would prefer, they fuckin’ kick ass, man. Starting (after a blessing from the band’s spiritual advisor, Brother J. C. Crawford) with Ramblin’ Rose, and continuing all the way through to Sun-Ra cover Starship, there is an unrepentant, infectious energy running through the album that makes it impossible not to enjoy. Listening carefully, you can hear traces of bands such as Motörhead, Pearl Jam, and Metallica - all undeniably having been influenced by the MC5.

Playing is superb, surprisingly tight for a live recording such as this one, everything from the warmly-toned guitars (‘brother’ Wayne Kramer on fine form) to the thunderous drumming (put slightly into the background by the otherwise excellent production). Highlights are near impossible to pick out, such is the quality of the material on show here, each and every track having its own special moments to savour. The sheer variety is startling, from the Hendrix vibe of Motor City Is Burning and the Doorsy Borderline, to a softer, Rolling Stones-esque I Want You Right Now and the downright uncanny Starship, the band capable of many things.

Frankly, there’s not a great deal more that can be said about this release. The bottom line is fans of Rock, Punk and Metalheads of all types should already own this as an important part of their collection; a cornerstone of musical rebellion that predates manufactured silliness like The Sex Pistols by years. The music that we love nowadays has many roots, but few have hailed MC5 as one of those foundations – a tragedy, when Kick Out The Jams is better than 90% of the so-called Rock that gets released nowadays. If nothing else, it's certainly the best live album ever released.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
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