Be a Caveman – The Best of the Voxx Garage Revival – Review

Be a Caveman

The Best of the Voxx Garage Revival (Bomp/Voxx)
by Jon Sarre

Bomp head guy Greg Shaw slaps the date “1979” on the ass of something he calls the “Garage Revival” and then goes on to explain how he created Voxx Records as an arm of his Bomp Magazine/Records empire to capture and foster this baby he done birthed. I think I may quibble with Shaw and opine that garage rock never really went away, tho’ it wasn’t referred to as such — what were the Stooges and MC5, really, but garage rock, tho’ their stuff was rarely confined to the magic 2:30 limit? The Velvet Underground, although, uh, arty, sure as fuck had their garage moments, especially on The Velvet Underground and Nico and Loaded (well illustrated by San Diego’s Crawdaddys‘ — Voxx’s first release — take on “There She Goes Again,” collected here). The New York Dolls? White kids aping R&B, sure sounds like the Chocolate Watchband minus their svengali Ed Cobb. Hell, ’70s punk in general, Boston’s DMZ (an exception as Shaw duly notes in his always informative liner notes). The Angry Samoans ’78 debut, Inside My Brain, is pretty fuckin’ garagey and if that is, what’s Black Flag’s Nervous Breakdown EP but a more brutal take on the same idea Samoans’ co-founder Metal Mike Saunders had been refining since he picked up a guitar in the late ’60s (perhaps making Metal Mike the missing link ‘tween the Standells and the Ramones, and if you can’t see the similarities off the bat, then you got problems and furthermore, if Saunders came up with it, smart bet says he wasn’t the only one, so a tag line and paisley shirts does not necessarily a revival make)?

Anyway, when Shaw says there was no scene or outlet for this garage stuff, he’s most likely right on that count, so we oughtta thank him for comin’ up with the Voxx thing. The label released everything from surf instrumentalists like Jon and the Nightriders (who don’t appear on Be a Caveman) to the Dwarves (who do the Avengers song “Be A Caveman” — small world!). In between, we got the seminal retro influences like the aforementioned DMZ (doin’ a Pretty Things cover here), The Chesterfield Kings (covering the aforementioned Chocolate Watchband’s “Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-in)?”, The Pandoras (doin’ some ’60s obscurity called “The Belles doin’ Van Morrison”), The Fuzztones, The Gravedigger V, The Miracle Workers, The Cynics, The Wombats, plus countless others (okay, I could count ’em, but I’m lazy today) all contributing either covers or originals that only sound like covers. No, it’s not the Nuggets of the 1980s (ya don’t have all those confusing chart positions to muck things up), but it might be the Back From the Grave. That’s to say it’s worth gettin’ yer mitts on it.