Johnny Moped

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Cycledelic Review

by Mark Deming

In Jon Savage's definitive chronicle of British punk England's Dreaming, he describes Johnny Moped as "one of nature's loons," and seemingly every chronicle of his short career in music refers to the man's fabled eccentricity. So it's fitting that Cycledelic, the lone full-length album from Johnny Moped (which in the grand tradition of Alice Cooper was the name of both the band and its lead singer), is certainly one of the more curious albums to emerge from the first wave of U.K. punk. Moped was a clumsy singer even by the standards of early British punk, given to moaning and gurgling when he couldn't think of something to say, and guitarist Slimy Toad had chops and wasn't afraid to show them, so some of the longer songs like "Maniac" and "3D Time" veer off into what sounds like a thug's version of prog rock. And even when the band did tear into something short, fast, and loud, they sounded like '60s pop gone mad on speed; Cycledelic may be one of the only albums from punk's first wave that displays almost no audible Ramones influence. But if the Mopeds were following a path all their own, they were clearly having a lot of fun doing it; the falsetto piss-take of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" serves as parody and tribute at once, "Darling, Let's Have Another Baby" is a wicked send-up of U.K. pop at its most insipid, and "Hell Razor," "Wild Breed," and "Make Trouble" thrash about with glorious abandon. And in 1978, there was no a better count-off on record than "Incendiary Device"'s "One! Two! Cut your hair!!! Johnny Moped was a little too odd to serve as a true Everykid, but the absurd brilliance of the best moments on Cycledelic are a shining example of the punk credo that anyone could do it -- and that sometimes amazing things could emerge from unexpected places.

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