Wayne Kramer

Citizen Wayne

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Wayne Kramer got more attention for serving two years in prison on drug charges than for anything he did with music in the 20 years that followed the breakup of the MC5 in 1972, so the strength, intelligence, and blazing power of Kramer's 1995 comeback album, The Hard Stuff, took many by surprise, and he showed that record's excellence was no fluke with the similarly accomplished Dangerous Madness in 1996. But after reaffirming his status as one of rock's visionary guitarists and a talented, deeply personal songwriter, Kramer decided to up the ante with an even more ambitious album, 1997's Citizen Wayne. Kramer touched on the musical and personal circumstances that shaped his life on the previous two albums, and the 12 songs on Citizen Wayne formed a loose autobiographical suite that traced his life from the early days of the MC5 ("Back When Dogs Could Talk," "Revolution in Apt. 29") though his purgatory years behind bars ("Count Time") to his redemption in music and a newly focused sobriety ("Doing the Work"). As good as the songs were -- and they're very good -- what really set Citizen Wayne apart was the production by David Was, which threw Kramer's music into an aural blender that balanced his guitar work against beds of synthesized and organic percussion, keyboards, and assorted noises. The results staked out a provocative middle ground between hard rock and electronics that avoided the clich├ęs of the former and the stiff angularity of the latter. While Kramer had previously worked with David Was as part of his mutant funk ensemble Was (Not Was), Citizen Wayne took some of the production techniques that informed that band's recordings and used them in the service of an album that was far more personal, organic, and revealing; Citizen Wayne was a brave experiment that succeeds far better than anyone might have expected given Kramer's history, and it's a genuine disappointment that it would be his last studio album for five years, followed by the lackluster Adult World.

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