Yep, still rattling on about my ten favorite bands (subject to change at any time). This time 'round we focus on two bands whose relative obscurity borders on the criminal and one who, despite the odds, enjoyed quite the "National Breakout" on their fourth album.
Sure, I liked "What I Like About You", along with the rest of humanity (at least until it started popping up in food chain commercials left and right), but it wasn't until their third album Strictly Personal came out in 1981 that I fully connected with these Detroit rockers.
Trading in their power pop jangle for heavy metal power chords, the 'Mantics' tunes took on a surging urgency that just hadn't been there before. Additionally, bassist Rich Cole was slyly revealed as the band's new secret weapon on lead vocals, bringing a sultry turn to "No One Like You", a song Nemporer Records had the good sense to release as the first single from the album, but then forgot to promote it.
Any other band might have thrown in the towel after such a bitter sales disappointment, but the Detroit foursome holed up in their practice room and began assembling the songs that would comprise 1983's In Heat.
That album spawned the band's biggest chart hit, "Talking In Your Sleep" and catapulted them to full-time headlining status in arenas. "One In A Million" was the second chart hit from the album, but it was "Rock You Up" (the B-side to "Talking In Your sleep" that was an unheralded fan favorite.
When singer/drummer Jimmy Marinos caught a bad case of of ego flu and vacated his drum throne in 1984, fans were left wondering what could have been.
Imagine a band with the swagger of the Stones, the showmanship of KISS on a lower budget, AND Aerosmith before they began snorting truckloads of coke. You can't do it can you? I mean, to think that one band could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all three of those rock giants is absurd. Unless, of course, you are familiar with this New York hard rock quintet.
"Cherry Baby", the schmaltzy 1976 single that was their lone entry into the Top 40, probably did more harm than good in the long run as it belied their rough-and-tumble hard rock sound, much like power ballads did for hair metal bands a decade later.
As a result, the rest of the world never got to know (and love) songs like "Subway Terror" (a first-person portrait of a serial mugger) or "Violation" (sung from the POV of a kid stuck in a mental facility), or "Cool One", which featured the lyrical snippet "She reached over and she squeezed on my rocks/I lost it all in the popcorn box."
The moment mine ears heard the chorus-drenched surf guitar and singer Mark Burgess' opening bellow at the start of "Don't Fall", I fully embraced the wonderful world of UK post-punk. The band's masterful debut, Script Of The Bridge, was a lyrical masterpiece set to muscular rhythms and shimmering guitars, creating a powerful yin-yang effect between "the esoteric" and "the viscera" that made this Manchester band tick, but ultimately led to their disintegration.
Growing up in the sticks, I was fortunate enough to be within radio-shot of a crazy Michigan DJ who clued listeners in to the album's existence, then ran out to pick up their first U.S. EP (the aforementioned Script of The Bridge). Upon making my maiden voyage to the legendary Chicago record store Wax Trax! in '85, not only did I discover that MCA (the band's American label) had removed FOUR WHOLE SONGS from the U.K. version, but that the band had a new album (the aptly titled What Does Anything Mean Basically?) that would never see proper release in the U.S.
Somehow, against all odds, the band secured a deal with U.S. label Geffen for the release of their third album, Strange Times, and created their most layered and inspired work to a cult audience before finally calling it a day.