Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Before the dawn of this New Year I can honestly say I knew next to nothing about Slade. Nothing. I didn't even know they were the guys that first did "Cum On Feel The Noize" - I just attributed that song to "Anonymous Seventies British Glam-Rock Band" for many many years. And in fact, I doubt too many Americans really hold Slade up to much regard now, save for 80's metal enthusiasts and the dudes in Kiss. Why care much about Slade when you've got other trailblazing British 70's rockers like David Bowie, T.Rex, Mott The Hoople or Roxy Music? Ehh?
Well, fun fact - during their early-70s peak, Slade outsold all of those bands in Britain. Their succession of Top 10 UK singles has only been beaten by the Beatles. They were the biggest British band of the 70s (at least in Britain itself), and as far as I can recall are still held in pretty high regard over there. And yet, in America, they are known mostly as the dudes who wrote that Quiet Riot song. They didn't have a single hit in America during their peak years.
Why didn't they? Shit, I don't know. I heard somewhere that Americans thought they sounded "too British" but that makes little to no sense. Slade's forte, at least during their peak glam years, was heart-stomping football-chant rock 'n roll, which I don't consider to be particularly British. There were PLENTY of bands like that in America scoring tons and tons of hits, so why not Slade? There are probably many reasons that I just do not know. It's a shame, though, 'cause from what I am hearing on Get Yer Boots On Slade were a pretty kick-ass band. Their lead singer, Noddy Holder (I can't get over that name for some reason) has this awesome throat-scratching scream of a voice that he uses to great effect, lending these songs a certain degree of rough-edged toughness. And hey, it's anthemic hard rock! Who doesn't love that?? (Nobody.)
Now I will admit, Get Yer Boots On is all the Slade I've got. Anybody who knows me (or reads this blog regularly) knows that I am not particularly fond of compilations. Get Yer Boots On is all I've got because it's all I could find. Having said that, it is a well-crafted compilation, one that gives us a nice summation of the better parts of Slade's career. I guess you could divide their development up into four phases: you've got their darker, Sabbath-esque early years ("Look Wot You Dun," "Coz I Luv You"); their peak-era glammy glam bubblegum years ("Mamma Weer All Crazee Now," "Cum On Feel the Noize," "Gudbuy T'Jane"); their baroque-pop phase ("Everyday," "Far Far Away," "How Does It Feel"); and their straight-ahead 80s metal-pop phase ("Run Runaway," "My Oh My"). At times the flow can feel a bit jarring - having the 80s-metal "Run Runaway" following the lushly orchestrated 70s number "How Does It Feel" is indeed weird - but overall there's a nice flow to these tracks.
I would say their first two phases - the dark hard-rock and the goofy glam-rock - offer the most enjoyable Slade to be found here. I'm particularly fond of "Coz I Luv You," one of their more sinister early hits with what has to be the most badass violin I have heard in a rock song (Andrew Bird, eat your dang heart out) and "Get Down And Get With It," a simplistic MC5 rocker that, while generic, is still enjoyable. And the glam-rock, oh man. What a barrel of fun. "Take Me Back 'ome," "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," "Cum on Feel The Noize" and my personal favorite Slade tune "Gudbuy T'Jane" are all perfectly-crafted handclap-worthy hard-rock numbers with indelible choruses. It is at this point in the compilation where I can easily credit Slade to being a precusor to AC/DC ("Mama," in particular, bears a striking similarity to AC/DC's "Rock 'N Roll Damnation" - you can easily imagine Bon Scott shouting a bunch of these songs). The goofy fun holds up until the classic "Merry Xmas Everybody," Slade's one Christmas song that is one of the most enjoyable holiday songs I have yet heard. Apparently it is held in the same regard as "White Christmas" in Britain. Hmm.
Slade's out-of-left-field baroque-pop phase in the mid-70s is probably my least favorite, at least from what I'm hearing on Get Yer Boots On. I mean, none of it's bad - it's certainly an interesting change of style, and they pull it off pretty well - but it just doesn't sound like them. The ballad "Everyday," the folky shuffle "Far Far Away," and the epic "How Does It Feel" are all impressive songs, but it's nothing amazing, and undoubtedly contributed to their loss of popularity after around '75 or so. But then you've got their goofy 80's comeback "Run Runaway," a rockin' 80s metal number featuring a vaguely Scottish melody - oddly enough, one of my favorite songs on here. It's a whole lotta fun! And somehow, their only substantial hit in America. Interesting, that.
So what do I have to say about Slade? Nothing shocking. They were a cool band! And they wrote truly kickass songs that deserve classic status over here - hey, they wrote hard rockers a little better than David Bowie, if you ask this dude. If you love some simple, direct, guttural classic hard-rock, look no further. And don't let the Britishness scare you! I don't know why it would! I mean, damn, the Beatles were a pretty British band, weren't they? Zeppelin? Deep Purple? The Who? Bowie?? No, no, it's Slade that sound too British. Okay.
(P.S. - I cannot stand the name of this compilation, if only because it constantly reminds me of U2's "Get On Your Boots." And everything I think of that song, I have to stop typing and shudder. Really interrupts the flow of things.)