Mondo Topless – Get Ready for Action – Review

Mondo Topless

Get Ready for Action (Dionysus)
by Jon Sarre

Garage rock, usually simply by virtue of its practitioners bein’ stuck with the mid-’60s ethos of cars’n’girls’n’goodtimes (or maybe late ’60s chemically achieved approximations of said ethos) is often simply more fun than the output of most of the “If I Could Be Vicious Like Sid” (or, alternately, “If I Could Galvanize the Proletariat Youth And Look Badass in This Leather Jacket”) genera-punx or imageshy-conscious indie twats. Plus it doesn’t really hurt that the garagesters often have a tendency to inject a bit o’ showbiz flair into their rawkous by choosing gimmicky, often matching costumes of some sort (I’d have to check into this, but my educated guess is that Paul Revere and the Raiders, with their Revolutionary War outfits, were the first widely popular, if not the originators of the costume idea, but then again, until the late ’60s or thereabouts, matching suits (or at least turtlenecks) on the boys in the band was the norm). It’s one of those things that makes ya stand out in a crowd of dimwits rewritin’ the Chuck Berry songbook (tho’ I’ll point out that some of the best of these neo-primitivists – take the Drags, or Lyres, for example – shun the trappings of gimmickhood, on the other hand, the Mummies wrapped themselves head to toe in dirty gauze bandages, but it never got ’em famous, so was all the effort worth it? Sure.).

Fortune & Maltese (not to mention The Phabulous Pallbearers) obviously subscribe to the “image gets you noticed” theory. Mr. Freddy Fortune (he’s the singer) and Mr. Michael Maltese (he’s the guy with the mean [Vox] organ) ape their heroes Paul Revere and the Raiders by sporting tri-cornered hats and ruffled shirts and blasting out treble-heavy psych-flavored proto-pop-punk (Fortune even poses on the front cover with a sax, just like Raiders’ singer Mark Lindsay, ‘cept Lindsay actually played his once in a while). The boys and their undertaker-garbed backing band have some moments that recall the Chesterfield Kings and occasionally can be mistaken for the Lyres (that’s to say, however, that the Lyres occasionally can be mistaken for ? and the Mysterians, so Monoman’s advice is not to sue anybody). By and large, F&M are not as good as the above bands, but they come close and garage rock’n’roll from the Motor City is doubtlessly apropos.

Pretty close in style and sound (albeit in a ’60s punker, fuzztoner sort of way) are Philly’s Mondo Topless. They don’t go for the dress-up game, but they could gig with Fortune & Maltese and even share their gear. Hell, they could all play at the same time – the “Monsters of Vox,” or somethin’! Sam Steinig’s organ is the focal point here and Mondo Topless is obviously his show (tho’ Vince Friel’s distortion pedal occasionally gives him a run for his money). The stuff of Get Ready For Action is grittier and without F&M’s humorous shtick, but still, the Yardbirds and Wailers stuff is still obtainable (Wailers’ re-releases on Norton now! Get ’em while ya can) and they did this better, firster.

Further down the evolutionary chain come Fortune & Maltese’s Get Hip labelmates, Nashville, TN’s Neanderthals. This isn’t the first band to be named after cavemen – there were the Troggs, that’s close, and the Cro-Mags, even closer, then ya get yer assorted Brigands, Huns, Visigoths and Barbarians (who hailed from Boston and had a drummer with a hook for a hand and whose one hit “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” inspired another one of Supercharger’s non-hits, “Are You a Boy/Girl?”). The back cover picture’s the four troglodytes in the band staring out moronically dressed up in animal skins, looking like inhabitants of the slums of Bedrock.

These guys are sly, however, their lyrics’ll make ya chuckle (a sample, from “Too Many Nights in the Gin Mill”: “Spend half my money on women and booze, the rest I spend foolishly”). Sonicly speaking, that’s what comes to mind, the Sonics. The sound is retro-punk, mid-’60s-style with sax and extra guitar added at famous Toerag studios. One song, “Hula Baby,” riffs along on a surfy re-take of Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over,” and another, “Twinkle Toes,” purloins the heavy tom beat of the Cramps’ “TV Set.” Like Mondo Topless and Fortune & Maltese, the Neanderthals are not gonna win any awards for originality, but then again, this is garage rock were talkin’ ’bout. Nobody gives bands like these awards anyway!
(Columbus & Preble Aves. Pittsburg, PA 15233)