Thee Michelle Gun Elephant

Gear Blues

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Japan's answer to the Stooges, Thee Michelle Gun Elephant kicks out the jams with rowdy garage rock and hot rod punk, showing that rock & roll might just be the closest thing this world has to a working Esperanto. Every tune on Gear Blues, the band's first release in the United States, will leave skid marks burned on your brain. From the mod single "West Cabaret Drive" to the Iggy Pop churn and grind of "Satanic Boom Boom Head" (one of the best rock & roll song titles ever), vocalist Yusuke Chiba alternates between twisty Japanese verses and raw choruses sung in English. Who cares that not everyone can comprehend the lyrics -- anyone who understands rock music will get it. Check out the death wish surf rock of "Free Devil Jam" and the Pixies-ish pop on "Killer Beach," where Buddy Holly "ooo-woo-hoos" meet a full-on guitar assault. The album ends with a bittersweet, melancholy, space punk groove on "Danny Go" (if Black Francis had sung in Japanese!) and the hidden track, a bit of pop-ified Dead Kennedys cow punk that will leave you with a huge smile on your face, trying to sing along even if you don't speak Japanese.

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