Various Artists

I Love Guitar Wolf: Very Much

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Arguably Japan's greatest rock & roll band, Guitar Wolf set a new standard for sheer mania in the garage rock/punk axis -- clad in matching black leather and flailing at their Ramones-inspired songs with a fury and passion that could power a medium-sized city, guitarist Seiji, bassist Billy, and drummer Toru were the sort of band less interested in chops than in diving into their rock & roll as hard and as deep as they could, and if that meant leaping into their audience and onto their amps or pushing the needles so far into the red in the recording studio that engineers declared they played louder than was physically possible, then that's what they were willing to do. Guitar Wolf's full commitment to their music, and the fervent brilliance with which they attack their punk/garage/rockabilly hybrid, has earned them a small but mighty following outside the Land of the Rising Sun, and a dozen U.S. and U.K. bands (plus one group of Japanese interlopers) pay homage to the Wolf with the compilation I Love Guitar Wolf: Very Much. In the spirit of Guitar Wolf, much of this album is proudly lo-fi and blazingly loud (with a special shout-out going to Total Dork, whose version of "Shinkansen High Tension" is mastered noticeably louder than the rest of the disc), and the artists on board go out of their way to match the frantic spirit of the originals. While Lightning Bolt, Jim O'Rourke, and Total Dork kick out wildly noisy takes that match the fuzzy punch of the originals, most of the acts put the stamp of their own personality on the tunes while still honoring the classic Guitar Wolf intensity, with the blues-shot sway of the Porch Ghouls and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, the hard rock swagger of the Wildhearts, the old-school punk skank of Snuff, and the proto-stoner throb of J Mascis meshing best with these songs. This album appears at a turning point in Guitar Wolf's history -- bassist Billy died on March 30, 2005, while this project was already in the works, and while Seiji and Toru have pledged to continue, I Love Guitar Wolf: Very Much not only helps to sum up the greatness of the band's first era, but serves as a vital shout-out to Guitar Wolf when they could probably use it. It won't replace your copy of Jet Generation, but it's a loving and appropriately crazed tribute to a one-of-a-kind rock band.

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