? & the Mysterians

96 Tears [Compilation]

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Brimming with energetic, hard-edged performances, this CD rerelease -- featuring tracks from Question Mark and The Mysterians' first two albums -- showcases some of the finest garage rock ever recorded. Known primarily for their #1 hit, "96 Tears," ?'s band could rock note for note with any of their contemporaries, but the depth of their musical gift went largely unappreciated. Did Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs, the Sir Douglas Quintet or the Standells have a 15 year-old ivory tinkler who could play authentic Delta blues? No! The Mysterians' basic formula was simple. Bassist Frank Lugo and drummer Eddie Serrato laid down a rock-solid groove, and "Little Frank" Rodriguez dressed it up with a killer organ hook. While "I Need Somebody," Don't Break This Heart of Mine," and "Midnight Hour" each had commercial strengths, the brooding "96 Tears" was the perfect vehicle for the Mysterians' quirky style. Over Lugo's darkly dancing bass, Rodriguez' stabbed eighth notes become malicious taunts, and ?'s impeccably timed spoken vocal skewers the faithless ladyfriend. For sheer melodramatic intensity, it's hard to beat the song's middle eight. Listening to the other tracks (some taken from the band's live set), one can't help feeling that the lads were rushed through the studio, for the tunes are less well-conceived and executed. Even so, the majority of the cuts are halfway decent, and therefore this anthology can be unhesitatingly recommended to true garage rock disciples. General audiences may wish simply to borrow it.