MC5 — Kick Out the Jams (review)

MC5 — Kick Out the Jams album cover Album · 1969 · Proto-Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Angry and politicised enough to edge towards punk rock, but with enough classic rock features - they slip in an old school guitar solo here and there, like at the end of Ramblin' Rose - to not quite qualify as founders of the genre (it would be down to the Stooges to do the honours there), the MC5 were still one of the loudest bands you could hope to hear in 1968. The band made the right call in making their first album a live one, because the music is so raw, so vital, and the energy of the crowd is so intense, that it would be impossible to capture quite the same atmosphere in a studio.

And if you want proto-metal, boy you've got it. Come Together, which emerges roaring from the tail end of the title track, reaches almost speed metal velocities, and with its lyrics about revolution and solidarity in the darkness is scary as hell - not in a "Satan is going to eat your soul" way but in a "they're going to riot in the streets and burn the world down" kind of way. In fact, the first five tracks all exude immense power and speed; the albums only slow down for Motor City is Burning, a bit of politicised blues-rock more interesting for the lyrical content than for the somewhat hackneyed musical content. Not that I have anything against the blues, but other artists did the whole blues-rock thing better than these guys. (And it continues into the next song, the uninspired I Want You Right Now.) Things pick up for the energetic Starship, but it has to be said that the album's second side seriously sags in the middle.

Those who don't agree with the MC5's politics might be put out by the lyrical content and the occasional rabble-rousing between songs - but then again, if you're not into rebellion and sticking two fingers up at authority you're hardly likely to be particularly keen on metal. Not a five-star album by a long way - the second side is just plain weaker than the first - but a very creditable three and a half stars.
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