THE VIBES - THE CHAINSAW RECORDINGS.
Updated: Mar 3
Released late 2021 Reviewed by Kate 19th February 2023 Released by Crazy Love Records Buy the album here: https://www.crazyloverecords.de/.../vibes-the-chainsaw...
The Vibes were: Gaz Voola -vocals Lloyd Tripp -bass Johnny Johnson-guitar Bob Martin -guitar John Jobbagy -drums
It’s a mixed bag being noticeably younger than many of my pals on the rockin’ scene, but one of the definite upsides is being able to come at older records completely fresh. When you get into a band through their work over the last ten years, their first album made back when Thatcher was in power can be a total revelation. So, when Rockin’ AJ sent over the Vibes’ ‘Chainsaw Recordings’, a mix of What’s Inside and the I Hear Noises EP from 1985, I was beyond excited. Sure, I’d heard of the legendary Essex based garage rock group, hyped by everyone from John Peel to Boomerang Club founder Dave Diamond (who wrote the liner notes for the release, and happens to be assistant editor of this very blog), but I’d never engaged with the record with my writer’s hat on. I can tell you now, if you missed it first time around, it is absolutely astounding.
“As a teen I always wanted to release some tracks that would end up on some obscure oldies compilation or some dodgy bootleg just like the music I was listening to.. I knew there was still some interest, so [I’m] not shocked [that it was re-released], just happy there's still some people that are into it,” said vocalist Gary when I chatted to him. What’s Inside is a garage trash noise punk blues rock album par excellence which has doubtless been the genesis for a lot of later bands, but also builds on a lot of older artists from all over the scene: “A lot of obscure 60s Garage Punk/Psyche and bands like the 13th Floor Elevators, the Seeds, Chocolate Watchband, 50s echo drenched rockabilly, Bo Diddley, Mod stuff, rockin' blues, the Pretty Things etc. When we formed, after the Megatons fizzled out, before we had a name, it was inspired by bands like Link Wray, the Stingrays, the Cannibals, the Milkshakes etc..underground and doing their own thing. We all had our own taste in the band, but connected on the above.”
Psychedelic Woman - The opening riff is pure punk rock, and distortion floats over everything like a butterfly that stings like a bee. There’s something electric about the clashing drums over this sixties tweaking guitar and the barely controlled passion in the vocals, like a truck barely avoiding veering out of control. This does not feel like a song that’s recorded some nearly forty years ago: it could have come from New York in the seventies or a warehouse now.
No Friend of Mine - The guitar riffs build it up and knock it down, and the Vibes have this Ramones-quality of appearing chaotic when being very much in control. I hear the ‘mod stuff’ influence in this track more strongly, like those very early Who records where they were still cute, and they’ve captured the elusive spirit of a live record in a recording. Just an astonishingly good garage rock song.
Inside Out -We start with bass pumping like an irregular heartbeat and a sense of panic on the ‘WHY?!’ And it just gets more frantic from there. Now, this one I would say drifts into punk territory, but it’s a lot smarter than a lot of the punk produced at the same time. For someone who walks the line between genres in their listening, this is a perfect song.
Ballad of JD - The best song the Kinks never wrote, or maybe they did write it in a post-apocalyptic timeline where the society broke in the sixties, but there’s also this Joy Division tone on the bass under the surface. It crescendos then has a fantastic breakdown to lead us out.
Judgment Day - We start with a spooky spoken word intro, and a slow, mostly instrumental track flows out from there. I wish they could have met The Birthday Party because the collaboration would have been intense, strange and divine. This is an odd interlude which explodes in the last minute or so into a short burn of punk magic, so don’t skip this track if you think it’s going too slowly.
Footsteps - Imagine the Doors without the organ nonsense and channel that shamanic power through a post punk spooky blues filter, and you’ve got this song. It needs to soundtrack something, but I’m afraid that whatever cinematic creature would fit with the force of the sharpening guitar and pounding rhythm section would cause me to ‘take off and run’.
Come Back Bird - Gary’s favourite song on the record. A feral Stray Cats energy stalks this number through that big bad slap bass sound and the desperate wail on the vocals that builds up and drops is tremendous. At this point in writing, I stopped and started to wonder why I’d never properly listened to this record before and questioned a lot of choices I’ve made.
Something Ain’t - I intended to take a break after the previous song, but the flow into this song was too perfect to step away from. It’s slower and has this gut-punching rhythm over nightmarish lyrics and unrelenting guitar, and you won’t be able to hit pause either.
Loosing my mind - Fairground creepiness drags us into the darkness, and they’re using the organ effects so very well. Love as madness is a common theme, but this is a very claustrophobic and brutal take on it and we’re back in the parallel sixties dimension. The distortion would be oppressive without these acidic guitar touches and I love it.
Aint It Hard - Life can be tough, and the Vibes understand that. Listing off troubles, this is the darkest but grooviest take on the trope wrapped up in an incredibly talented bow. Honestly, the way they made a distinct sound out of such diverse influences is astounding.
What ‘Cha Gonna Do About It? - The last song on the original What’s Inside? album, and the repetition of the title is a challenge to the lady giving the cold shoulder to the desperate narrator. It’s got to be the ‘danciest’ track on the record and a wonderful ending, bookending the journey we’ve been taken on through a distorted dimension full of screams, wails and fuzz.
I Hear Noises - On to the bonus section of Chainsaw Recordings, namely the I Hear Noises EP which has been added on for this re-release. With a similar energy to footsteps and a deepening vocal effect to open the track, after a minute the I Hear Noises bursts into this Stooges trash triumph and then blends the start back in again to create this grimy, sinister playground.
I’m in Pittsburgh (and it’s rain'in) - I haven’t mentioned the Cramps yet as a sound-alike, but there’s an unmistakeable similar flavour to both bands. This number toys with us, pouncing and hiding and crashing, and a wall of noise hits you like a tidal wave.
Hasil Adkins in my head - Pounding, twanging…after fourteen tracks the intensity has not let up for a second and I am so into the deranged atmosphere they’ve created. It’s so raw and vibrant and has not aged a day.
Scratch My Back - a jarring and clicking start leads into one of the more upbeat songs on the record and immediately some of the more messy festivals I’ve attended spring to mind as fitting perfectly with the tempo and mood here. Why have more folk not heard this song?
I’m Mad - A dark and swampy blues number gives us a hint as to what could have been had The Vibes carried on. It’s somehow both in and out of character and one of the more conventional tracks on this release, and it’s just so very big.
I asked Gary how he felt listening to his record now: “I got food poisoning from the studio kitchen on the first day. We were staying in Kirby, Liverpool. I was in bed for two days, I felt like death, we recorded and mixed the album in five days. We had to drop a couple of tracks that were bangers live, just didn't get the performance because I felt so bad. Fortunately we recorded them for the Peel session.I think the LP could have been better but amazed we got it done on schedule. If I hear it I just remember feeling rough as, but brings back memories of some great and funny times.” Food poisoning is one of the last things popping into my head having listened to this album. If you like your music as raw and dirty as it can possibly get, and you want to know where your favourite modern trash band got most of their ideas from, then this is the album you need to get. It’s just so very, very good at what it does, and I only wish I could have listened to it sooner..