How many bands from the sixties are still left, let alone worth seeing? The Stones may be a pale shadow of their former glory, but the Flamin’ Groovies are still out there and still reputedly ripping it up. As far as legendary twinbills are concerned, it’s hard to imagine anything much more adrenalizing than when they teamed up with the original version of Aussie garage-psych legends Radio Birdman for that band’s one and only European tour in 1979. Hundreds, maybe thousands of shows later, the Flamin’ Groovies are making their Williamsburg debut this Sunday, November 22 at 10 PM at Baby’s All Right. Cover is $20, and you might want to show up early just to make sure you get in since this is a small place, maybe the smallest venue the band has played in decades. You can expect to see Cyril Jordan, Chris Wilson and George Alexander from the classic 1971-80 lineup, bolstered by Victor Penalosa on drums,
Their latest release is Groovies’ Greatest Grooves, streaming at Spotify, a delicious and definitive 24-song playlist that would get a smile out of the most curmudgeonly, critical pop purist. There’s Shake Some Action, the iconic powerpop tune with the hook that every guitarist worth his or her salt has messed around with (and possibly stolen); the new single End of the World, echoing Blue Oyster Cult or possibly the Frank Flight Band; Teenage Head, the snotty, ghoulishly galloping number that at least one band named themselves after; the trippy, woundedly gorgeous twelve-string chamber pop classic I Saw Her; Slow Death; which prefigures both the Move and Big Star; the wickedly catchy yet counterintuitive Jumpin’ in the Night; and the proto-glam Tallahassee Lassie.
These guys were so far ahead of their time it’s not funny. The list of bands they’ve influenced, in punk, powerpop and garage rock, goes on for miles. You can hear electric T-Rex in Yeah My Baby (meanwhile, the Groovies are mashing up the Velvets with the Beatles). Their stripped-down cover of Don’t Lie to Me has been a prototype for bar bands covering Chuck Berry for decades. There’s First Plane Home, awash in glistening Rickenbacker chime and clang. Uneasy major-to-minor-and-back changes permeate the briskly pulsing shuffle Please Please Girl, while it’s the dancing, minimalist lead guitar lines that make I Can’t Hide so cool. There are also deeper tracks here like Yes It’s True and You Tore Me Down, with their heartbreakingly jangly, watery mashup of Byrds folk-rock and early Beatles pop; Between the Lines, which could be a proto-Cheap Trick covering Dylan: and Don’t Put Me On, a defiant stoner look forward to new wave.
There’s also Teenage Confidential, which sounds like the early Who taking a stab at Phil Spector; amped up early Pretty Things-style R&B like Down Down Down; I’ll Cry Alone, beefed-up acoustic-electric Fab Four; the fuzztone-tinged Byrds of Yes I Am; and the bizarre bluegrass-Beatles hybrid All I Wanted. There’s going to be a clinic in sharp, catchy tunesmithing Sunday night a few blocks from the Marcy Avenue stop on the J and M train and you can be there to witness it.