A Little Mind Distraction: The Mooney Suzuki

The Mooney Suzuki

Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL, April 1, 2002

If FUCK! Is the greatest and best word in the language of rock and roll, then YEAH! Is undoubtedly riding shotgun. Monday night, the Mooney Suzuki got enough mileage out of the affirmation to re-write rock and roll history. (For at least a little while).

I feel alright!


I feel alright now!


Dressed as they were like spies from K.A.O.S., I half expected to see Agent 99 doing the swim in the back of the club. As Suzuki ringleader Sammy James, Jr pinwheeled like Pete Townshend, squalls of Technicolor distortion peeled out of Graham Tyler’s vintage rig, and for 45 nonstop, pogo’ing minutes, New York City’s Mooney Suzuki made rock and roll fun again. Handclaps. Goofy stage moves. Tributes to the electric guitar. All present and accounted for. At one point, after another in a jackhammering series of rave-up rockers had ground to a halt, it seemed like maybe — maybe — everyone in the club was having too much of a gas, shouting out choruses and returning Tyler’s upraised “#1!” salute. Then James asked how many rockers had been at the Suzuki’s Chicago appearance the previous year, and negative thoughts were trampled by 200 upraised fists.


On Monday night at the Bottle, every punchline in the Garage Rock Jokebook was torn out, wadded up, flattened out, and re-taped into the book as a brand new laugh. 35-year-old riffs sounded like, well, 35 years ago. I think I left the gig with every song on Nuggets stuck in my head at once. It’s the classic story. The tenets of rock and roll — balls, soul, rhythm, blues, and melody — are reconstituted by a band with the right amount of chemistry, chops, and looks. They tour. Hard. And when they get to your town, they make those Hanna-Barbera, “We’re the Way-Outs, WAY-OUTS!” riffs and yelps sound like gold to you. Yeah, it’s been done before, blah blah blah. But if acting like a Rocker — and backing it up with the goods — is really as fun as the Mooney Suzuki makes it look, it’s not clear to me why anyone at last night’s happening went back to their day jobs this morning.

New York City’s Cavestomp! Festacular is at the eye of a 60s Psychedelia/Garage hurricane. Grease-trap legends like The Standells and The Monks have rocked its stages. Last year, those guys asked the Mooney Suzuki to show up. See, it’s not a tribute. The Suzuki’s riffs are only continuing what “Dirty Water,” “Complication,” and the ascerbic outro to Paul Revere & The Raiders’ “Just Like Me” began. That’s rocking, rolling, Rhythm & Blues music, built out of scrap parts and re-tooled into shiny two-and-a-half minute blasts of melody.


The Mooney Suzuki travel in their time warp on a spaceship called Estrus Records. The Bellingham, WA-based label is like Black Death Vodka or Little Kings, fucking up people the right way for years and years. Its bands — The Mono Men, The Makers, The Immortal Lee County Killers — belong to a rock and roll tradition that sees a purer line between itself and its heroes. Luckily, what many of these rockers lack in originality, they make up for with fury and an open hi-hat. People Get Ready, The Mooney Suzuki’s 2000 debut, appeared on Estrus to tremendous acclaim, and the boys backed it up with a year of straight touring. Bring it to the people, you know. Now, you knew this story had to eventually lead to Detroit. And sure enough, in August of 2001 the band entered Jim Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders in the D to lay down tracks for Electric Sweat (released on the new NYC imprint Gammon). Chances are the Mooney Suzuki’s particular brand of fraggle rock is coming to your town soon. And chances are, its cache of Motor City rocket fuel, NYC swagger, and Garage Rock melody will win over the hearts, minds, and blue suede shoes of the rockers in your town. (For at least for a little while.)


4 thoughts on “A Little Mind Distraction: The Mooney Suzuki”

  1. I caught those guys when they opened up for the Donnas. The Donnas never seemed so cool after that. . .

  2. Ah, Estrus Records. The Monomen have the hottest album covers. Usually half-naked chicks and tough cars. Great stuff.I wonder if the recent attention garage has been getting will trickle down to groups who maintian the Sonics vision with this amount of traditionalism? Will true garage, that built in the image of the Nuggets and Back to the Grave series, get a nod from the mainstream. Egad, could the Haze be next?!?

  3. That show so rocked!! I was beaming like someone’s mum. I also picked up Electric Sweat while I was there. I luv the way the tracks are listed “side 1” and “side 2”.You know they are opening for The Hives at Metro? ….don’t miss it!!!

  4. The Mooney Suzuki puts on one of the greatest live acts around. Relatively mundane lyrics aside, to see a tms show is truly an “experience.” They really know how to get the energy circulating–some of the guitar parts are killer! Let’s hope their signing with a major label doesn’t deter their awesome performance nor change their rock and roll roots!

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