It’s 2016, I’m standing in a local record store and looking through the used bins and CD sections to see if maybe there are any Gruesomes releases. Their music is scarce in record stores these days, but you never know. On the vinyl side of things, there are Gruesomes records missing from my collection. I recall reading that Gruesomania was reissued on vinyl recently. I quickly place an order. Emerging from Montreal and rising to popularity in parts of Europe and the North American underground music scenes, Gruesomania followed 1986’s Tyrants of Teen Trash. Originally released in 1987 on OG Music and recorded in Montreal, Gruesomania is often seen as one of the band’s best efforts released during their initial run as a band from 1985-1990.
The Gruesomes took influence from obscure garage compilations, 60’s garage and R&B acts and merged it with the visceral energy and attitude of 70s punk rock. Placing the record onto my record player, as the record catches “Way Down Below” opens Gruesomania with its spooky, fuzzy garage riff. This song draws on images of a bad relationship, hell and the band's horror/b-movie styled humour. A performance based music video for this song received high rotation on Much Music in Canada in the mid-80s. Gruesomania is filled with the same snotty energy as Tyrants Of Teen Trash, but also adds more of a soulful/R&B rhythm to their sound. This was in part due to John Knoll joining as the band’s drummer, replacing original Gruesome member Eric Davis. The album combines raved up Gruesome originals and several R&B/garage covers. The third track “Leave My Kitten Alone” is sung by guitarist Gerry Alvarez and complete with raunchy, twangy guitars and catchy vocal harmonies. This song was covered by The Beatles, but was originally released in 1959 by Little Wille John.
If side one of Gruesomania started with the horror stylings of “Way Down Below” and songs that seem to question relationships that could be going wrong, side two starts off with “Je Cherche”, a song that starts off with an explosion, literally. Originally by Les Lutins in 1967, the song's title roughly translates into “I’m Searching” in English. This song starts off with lyrical subject matter that seems to question several of the topics brought up on the first side of this LP. “Why Me?” is a song about boredom, TV dinners, lack of cash and loneliness, “Time’s Gonna Come” shows The Gruesomes getting thrashier, fuelled on adrenaline, along with the instrumental “Jacknife”. “Outta My Mind” is a raved up garage song complete with harmonica, thick R&B influenced bass grooves from John Davis and intense vocals sung by guitarist Gerry Alvarez. Described as a song about “A tale of mistaken identity”, this song as do many on the second side of this LP, picks up on the band’s undeniable energy and chemistry. “You Said Yeah” is a fuzzy heavy guitar driven song that comes in as track thirteen before the album’s last track. “Heart Full Of Pain” is a slower song, complete with tremolo guitar and a paced soulful executed groove.
As Gruesomania ends, there is a short, hidden track, which features members of the band messing around on a piano and with each other. This, along with their sense of humour in their songs and in the actual liner notes, showcases The Gruesomes ethos and aesthetic. As the album ends, the record crackles and hisses as the record needle rises, I recall a review of this album from 2009, which describes the album’s production levels as “below that of farting into a ghetto blaster's built-in microphone”. This humorous comparison while partially joking brings forth the fact that The Gruesomes were all about their chemistry. The album does lend itself to the lo-fi realm of recording, despite not being recorded on 8 track. In fact, there’s nothing wrong with the sound of this album. It was never going to have over the top 80s over production techniques of the day. That isn’t the point and never was.
Rising from basements in a variety of reissues in different forms intermittently since 1987, Gruesomania was released on CD via Ricochet Sound in 2008 with bonus tracks and released on vinyl via Artofact records in 2015. Raised on bad TV shows, obscure garage nuggets, boredom and snotty, adrenalized enthusiasm, Gruesomania is infectious in its execution. Catch Gruesomania. It’s just as contagious today as it was in 1987.
Playlist for Show # 621:
1. The Barracudas - Summer Fun
2. The Submissives - Do You Really Love Me?
3. The Beatles - Cry For A Shadow
4. Wilco - I'm A Wheel
5. Tom Waits - I Don't Wanna Grow Up
6. The Good Family Album - Taller Than The Pines
7. Danny Kroha - The Road is Rough And Rocky
8. The Pogues - Bottle Of Smoke
9. Uncle Tupelo - Screen Door
10. The Gories - On The Run
11. The Pack AD - Is It So
12. Mexican Knives - Nightmare
13. Cellos - Standard And Poor
14. By Divine Right - Stretch Parachute
15. The Pixies - Holiday (live In Detroit 11.22.04)
16. Ty Segall Band - The Tongue
17. Sonic Youth - Tom Violence
18. PJ Harvey - Stella
19. Protomartyr - What The Wall Said
20. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Down At The Rock n' Roll Club (Alternate Version)
21. Blondie - Eat To The Beat
22. Weird Lines - There Are Never Too Many Matches
23. Archaics - No In No Out
24. Square Waves - All That's Left
25. The Famines - Got Lies If You Want Them
26. Dion Lunadon - 1976
27. The Gruesomes - Jacknife
28. The Gruesomes - Outta My Mind
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for September 17.
Episode # 622 was a repeat of a previous episode that originally aired in September 2015. You download that episode here and view the playlist here.