Formed in 1962, the Standells were seasoned professionals by the time they obtained widespread visiblity. The song that did it for them was “Dirty Water,” which peaked at No. 11 on the national charts in the summer of 1966. Despite the reality the band continued to release superb singles and albums, they never matched the commercial success they had with the gritty and greasy tune, complete with a mean and menacing snarl and shrilly harmonica fills, that spoke of frustrated women having to be in by twelve o’clock and lovers, muggers and thieves.
Although “Dirty Water” is a great song and a stone cold garage punk classic, it is actually not the Los Angeles group’s strongest effort. Fastened tight with tunes so good they could have all rattled the airwaves, The Best Of The Standells (Rhino Records) punches in as a smartly selected document of the band’s worth.
Bleached with dizzy rhythms, “Why Pick On Me” embraces the raga rock craze of the day, where songs like the wobbly, blurry-eyed glare of “Medication,” the space age swirl of “All Fall Down,” the atmospheric feel of “Animal Girl” and the moody shadings of “Rari,” which involves a blast of cracking keyboard work, further captures the group exploring psychedelic music with delectable results.
A slick and sexy soul influence, marked by blaring horns and slippery grooves, arrives on “Can’t Help But Love You,” and “There’s A Storm Comin’” crunches and cackles to a bold and bluesy beat.
But there’s no argument the Standells were at the top of their game when cranking out hard and powerful rockers. Tough guitars, emphasized by stabbing riffs galore, infused with sassy and brawny vocals, jumbo-sized harmonies and hooks sharper than needles on a cactus, guide the course on tunes such as “Barracuda,” “Riot On Sunset Strip” and “Little Sally Tease,” not to mention “Try It,” which was banned by a handful of radio stations because it was believed to be too racy by conservative standards. Shortly before the Standells cut the so-called controversial song, the Ohio Express issued their own tasty version that somehow managed to sneak past the pop music Nazi radar.
Teeming with the sort of edgy sounds the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Troggs and Paul Revere and the Raiders slayed the public with, The Best Of The Standells is a garage rock lover’s paradise. Raw and natural energy, combined with pick of the litter material and just the right amount of rebellion to allow a cool factor, make the Standells a band that everyone should have the pleasure of hearing.
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