The Stairs

Mexican R 'n' B

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When they first started playing in 1990, the Stairs were out of step with the times. There weren't too many bands playing reverent versions of rugged garage rock, rollicking psych-pop, and jangling folk-rock in the U.K., or anywhere. Bassist/vocalist Edgar Jones, guitarist Ged Lynn, and drummer Paul Maguire took old Pebbles, Nuggets, and Rubbles compilations, stole all the best parts, and rebuilt them into new-ish tunes for the modern scene. They made some early fans and ended up recording a batch of EPs, then released their retro masterpiece, Mexican R 'n' B, in 1992. The album features pastiches of the Seeds, the Stones, the Who, the Chocolate Watchband, and countless groups with names like the Livin' End and the Night Riders, all done with supersonic power thanks to the trio's muscular playing and Jones' booming vocals. He definitely has some Jagger snarl, but adds enough lung power to strip the paint off the back wall of the club. The record isn't particularly inventive or surprising; its strength comes from the band doing such a good job researching and re-creating so many great sounds and records. They show mastery of bummer folk-rock on the chiming "Sweet Sweet Thing," essay loping British psych-pop on "Mr Window Pane," deliver blistering garage rock that sounds like early versions of the Stooges and MC5 fighting over the practice room PA ("Right in the Back of Your Mind"), take an expansive psychedelic journey on the Byrds-meet-the Doors "Fall Down the Rain," and like any garage rock band worth their salt, knock out some blues-wailing jams like "Wrap Me Round Your Finger" and the Spencer Davis Group-y "Woman Gone and Say Goodbye." They also managed to pen not one, but two, odes to marijuana with the "Magic Bus"-quoting "Weed Bus" and the boot-stomping rocker "Mary Joanna." Mexican R 'n' B is at its core a total nostalgia trip, but the band's energy and knack for writing hooky songs make it a trip worth taking, especially with Jones calling out the sights along the way.

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