Rick Blaze and The Ballbusters – Manhattan Babylon – Review

Rick Blaze and The Ballbusters

Manhattan Babylon (Vicious Kitten)
by Jon Sarre

Like Jeff Dahl with a major Johnny Thunders fixation and about half the good ideas (Dahl, in fact, plays lead guitar on the title track — that was probably a good idea), watch out for the punk rock wizard of Worcester (pronounced Wis-tah), Rick Blaze. Rick and his band do a pretty good job, actually, of achieving a kinda Heartbreakers-like serious rock’n’roll aesthetic, y’know power chordage by the numbers (listen to LAMF sometime), with more of a sense of the… uh, consequences, or mebbe “feelings and emotions” that usually didn’t color Thunders’ work (like even on “So Alone,” you’ve got those bald-faced crocodile tears, like Johnny just wants to borrow money from/fuck the listener). Now Rick, ya see, sorta likes to recall things. He does a song called “Memory” and ya probably get the idea there, “I remember ’70s punk,” etc. Elsewhere, he eulogizes Manhattan circa its hallowed dope’n’sleeze heydays, y’know, before Giuliani called in Mickey Mouse to clean up, does a thematic Xerox of “Chinese Rocks” (“Lust”) and gives me another example of the Johnny Thunders Concern Genre (see another review someplace, maybe ’round here) with this goofy ballad, “They Loved You to Death,” ‘nother eulogy, where he basically blames the media and rock crits for the guitar hero’s demise, nah, wouldn’t be the dope now, would it Rick? Then Blaze rips off the Dolls’ “Babylon” and nods (out?) to the first line of the Pagans’ “What’s This Shit Called Love” (“Pretty Messed Up”) ‘cept he changes it from “Saw it on books/read it on TV” to “Saw it on the radio/read it on TV” — guess he isn’t a member of Oprah’s Bookclub. The nine (????) bonus tracks of a rockin’ live rockin’ set in rockin’ old hometown of Wis-tah (Rockin’ City, as it is known thruout central Massachusetts, a rockin’ part of a rockin’ state), contains a pretty rockin’ rendition of “Gimmie Shelter,” complete with presumably rockin’ bassperson Cathy Peters on rockin’ backin’ vox so it sounds like the rockin’ original and a rockin’ Johnny Thunders-styled (who else???) rockin’ reading of Rockin’ Bo Diddley’s (tho’ the rockin’ songwriting credit here reads Blind Willie McTell, who wasn’t rockin’ cuz he was bluesin’n’boozin’) “I Can Tell” (a rockin’ highlight of Johnny’s rockin’ livesets). Jeez, I’m startin’ to make fun of this poor guy and given the supernatural power Blaze credits the press with havin’, I’m gonna haveta cut this one short. I don’t want blood on my hands.
(GPO Box 20 Canberra ACT 2601 Australia)