Somewhat oddly structured for a '60s garage compilation, the 23-track CD Just for Kicks, Vol. 1 is devoted entirely to material by four unrelated bands (from different regions of the United States) that few garage collectors are up to speed with: the Monuments (from Oklahoma), Wet Paint (from Chicago), Mouse & the Boys (from Jacksonville, FL), and the Purple Gang (from Los Angeles). All of these groups managed a few little-known singles that made no national impact, though Mouse & the Boys' "Xcedrin Headache #69" did bubble under the Billboard Top 100, and the Purple Gang managed to put out a couple of 1966-1967 singles on the major MGM label. It's kind of a catchall for a bunch of bands that haven't been anthologized often, and while that provides a service to collectors determined to track down as much as they can (though not everything released by all the bands is included), it's also not top-rank as '60s garage anthologies go. Certainly the Purple Gang are the most notable of the four groups, as they included future Music Machine member Mark Landon on rhythm guitar (though as their three singles were released in 1966-1967 and the Music Machine's first records came out in 1966, it seems reasonable to presume he might not have been on all of the Purple Gang's discs). Also, their best song, "Bring Your Own Self Down," was written by Tandyn Almer (famous for writing "Along Comes Mary"). "Bring Your Own Self Down" and the other songs on their MGM 45s (including an unlikely cover of Laura Nyro's "Poverty Train") have a wiry fuzz guitar/demented organ funhouse mania that will indeed appeal to fans of the Music Machine, though the two bands by no means sound exactly similar. However, their first single (for Jerden) pales in comparison. All sides of all three 45s are here, along with less essential previously unreleased demo covers of Love's "Can't Explain" and "No Matter What You Do." Unfortunately, the sound on the 45s, whether due to the original production or the transfer to CD or some combination of the two, is notably harsh and tinny.
As for the other acts on the CD, the Monuments are represented by one side of their only single, "African Diamonds," which is an adequate, standard 1966 punker with growling fuzz guitar, cheesy organ, and Mark Lindsay-like vocals. Also on hand are four previously unreleased Monuments tracks from 1966 that are unembarrassing but rather more restrained and less impressive, all of them original save a cover of the Hollies' "Bus Stop." Wet Paint, represented by both sides of their two 1966-1967 singles and one previously unreleased track, are the least memorable of the bands on the collection, putting some anguish and energy into their mostly original songs, but not much in the way of amazing riffs or personality. The same could be said to some degree of the poppier, more good-natured Mouse & the Boys, who actually recorded seven singles (some as the Deep Six, the Florida Deep Six, or the Boys), though there are just five tracks here. Their inclusion is validated, however, by the aforementioned "Xcedrin Headache #69," which is actually pretty good and fierce; it smokes like Paul Revere & the Raiders might have after ingesting some particularly potent amphetamine, kicking off with an unclassifiable dissonant shriek before getting pummeled along by a supremely confident, leering, and sardonic vocal. Garage collectors will deem the CD just about worth picking up for that song alone, plus much of the Purple Gang portion of the disc, though there's a fair amount of mediocrity to sift through along with the good stuff.