Well here we go with the American Zombies, the original English Zombies being the group famous for its combination (on albums) of concretely mysterious leadoff tracks and flimsy throwaways. There are a lot fewer waste tracks here, and a lot more good stuff. But it’s still of another era, one where anguish was relegated to either obscurity (as with the Zombies) or comedy (as with the Shangri-Las). And this is a real teenage band, teenage implying 1956 when anguish was at a high point but camouflaged. That moment when the camouflage was dropped was called rock and roll.
Well, in all the years since then you’d think that all the fear and trembling would have become more viable a vehicle for rock. But just take a gander at the chief representative of its latest phase, John Lennon, and you’ll se that forcing the issue doesn’t necessarily improve it. But with Hackam0re Brick it works out just fine. Just listen to ‘I Watched You Rhumba’ (sounds a lot like ‘rumble’) and ‘Zip Gun Woman’. There’s not an ounce of rock and roll revival in either; they’re just the bubbling underpinnings of any non-specific moment in the last 15 years of rock history. Meanwhile Lennon’s groupings are pure nostalgia, be it for his dead mother or an Elvis vocal he’s having trouble copping.
Musically, Hackamore has a number of tricks of its sleeve. One of them is Tommy Moonlight’s weird-ass keyboard playing. In ‘And I Wonder’ it’s the kind of mere organ extraordinaire that summons up images of the early Doors, the early Country Joe, the Castaways, even Del Shannon. The more mere, the more inexplicably mysterious, inexplicable because how come it works? But it does. And they don’t even sustain their gimmicks but since when need gimmicks be sustained?
In ‘Someone You Know’ it’s a vocal at the beginning by Chick Newman best described as Jackson Browne meets England, an accent plus that famous lilt in the voice. Remember when Bobby Rydell did an English-accent cover on Peter and Gordon’s ‘World Without Love’? It was an economic necessity for a dud like him, but for Hackamore it’s irrelevant hence charming. And there’s Bob Roman’s bass popping around with things McCartney used to attempt when he wanted to sound funky, this move setting off a whole series of neat associations: Hackamore Brick resembles the Zombies the way the Zombies used to resemble the Beatles and The Zombies always operated in the space between the Beatles and the Doors anyway. So both the Zombies and Hackamore are two things: limbo plus filler. Two great things to be in the right rock universe.
Although two other resemblances are occasionally present, they’re too imprecise to be the Velvet Underground or the Stooges. But who needs target practice? In ‘Oh! Those Sweet Bananas’ the resemblance is to Autosalvage, so they’re the heir apparent to that too. This song is the ‘One Kiss Leads to Another’ title song, not just x organically leading to y but lines that seemingly could and should end but don’t and don’t have to anyway, with ‘….and it always does’ being a mid-line parenthetical insertion with a least mock universal import. In other words, it’s the return to raunch archaeology (yeah, that’s what Autosalvage was, Van Morrison too when he was with Them). In other words, their very means of construction mirrors the age-old secret processes of rock haphazardness of survival becoming conscious of themselves and repeating themselves as steadfast logic. Hence, their music is bound to step on a few archetypes, and once in awhile even hit the nail on the head.
It may just be too late for any of this, in which case you just go take your weird listening preferences, I’ll take mine. This album’s a gas.