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The Boston Phoenix American Ruse

The Tight Bro's kick out the jams

By Carly Carioli

JULY 5, 1999:  In case you haven't heard, Kill Rock Stars is putting out an EP by the one and only Ronnie Spector later this year, which is only like a freakin' rock critic's wet dream (prospective headline: Riot Grrrls Reclaim Rowdy '60s Girl-Group Heritage; Validates Everything We Said About the Donnas!). But then I got hold of Runnin' thru My Bones (Kill Rock Stars), the debut disc of the Tight Bro's from Way Back When, and I began to think the KRS ones had a different strategy in mind -- they've apparently decided that after you get done killing off all the rock stars, the only thing left to do is start resurrecting the bastards.

Fronting the Tight Bro's is none other than AC/DC's Brian Johnson -- here billed as Jared Miller, a name also shared by the singer in the late, great, Melvinsy K-Records outfit Karp, but I'm not buying it for a second. After all, one of the manifestos on the KRS Web site proclaims that "good rock and roll is a conspiracy," and what's a conspiracy without a few decent conspiracy theories? Under the tutelage of Johnson/Miller, the Bro's pound through new sloppy-seconds versions of sweaty, throbbing outtakes from the secret and thus far unreleased session that the old Bon Scott-fronted line-up recorded prior to 1975's High Voltage in a converted Motor City pork slaughterhouse just down the street from the Stooges' old Fun House. Included are the much-more-rocking prototype for "Givin' the Dog a Bone" ("Workin' Overtime . . . For Your Love") and a thinly veiled rewrite of the Stooges' "Death Trip" ("Coo-Coo-Ha!", with the soon-to-be-immortal line "That's right! Certifiably loony! Doctor says there's no cure for me!"), which musta bled through the walls and down the street or something.

Tight Bro's guitarists Dave (no last name) and John "Quitty" Quittner appear to have been recruited into the band on the false pretense that they were joining an MC5 reunion -- and they haven't yet figured out the dupe! (Tim Kerr used almost the exact same trick when he formed the Lord High Fixers a few years back, and those guys still think they're in the MC5!) This explains the amazingly raw, unbuttoned, wholly un-AC/DC-like quality with which they perform -- as on "That's a Promise," where they keep trying to play "Rock 'n Roll Singer" as if it were "Kick Out the Jams."

It also explains what would otherwise be an anomaly -- how in interviews the Tight Bro's maintain they're trying to sound like the MC5 and can't understand why everyone always brings up AC/DC. Okay, let's play along -- they sound like the MC5, but only the side of the MC5 that really dug Chuck Berry, as opposed to the side that wanted to be Ornette Coleman. And though the Tight Bro's's "Rip It Up" isn't Little Richard's, they do throw a "Bebop a lu bop, a bobbity-be" into "Strut," which in turn has nothing to do with the Bob Seger tune of similar nomenclature. Since the '5 basically sucked when they were in the studio -- which is why their best album is the live-recorded Kick Out the Jams -- the Tight Bro's go for that live-in-the-studio feel, which, like everything else here, is taken to sublimely absurd lengths. Y'know, like including stage patter ("Okay, I wanna see your hands in the air! Back and forth, that's right! Skin on skin!") and then acting incredulous when no one responds ("Are you ready? I'll take that as a yes.").

Anyway, in a year that's seen plenty of unofficial AC/DC hit the market, Runnin' thru My Bones is one of the best of 'em -- better than anything on Hell Ain't a Bad Place To Be, the AC/DC tribute disc featuring Electric Frankenstein, the Supersuckers, and the Upper Crust, though not quite as functionally brilliant as Buck Cherry's "Lit Up," the cocaine-snorting song credited to the band first spotted opening for Jackyl but in all likelihood a front for some David Geffen-funded black-budget Black Crowes project. Plus, the Bro's win because in this year of Hellacopters and Nashville Pussies -- in other words, one of the most back-to-basics years rock and roll has seen in a decade -- they've released the first album in years to include an honest-to-god drum solo. "Witchy Potion" tramples the Hellacopters on the way to a Kiss convention (harmonizing on the line "You got to shout it out now"); and despite its title, "Hayseed Rock" makes an end run around the Pussies, heading straight for a cross between Def Leppard's "Armageddon It" and the Who. With lineage like that, you'd expect the Bro's to run a Union Jack up the flagpole, but the cover of Thru My Bones is all dolled up in the stars and stripes. Yeah, as if anyone were gonna buy an American ruse like that.

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