by Fred Mills
While Cleveland doesn’t pop up that often on the national radar of musical hotbeds, sharp minds will recall how in the late ’60s the Velvet Underground frequently called it their home away from home. The subsequent proto-punk fallout — Velvet progeny Rocket From the Tombs, Pere Ubu, Mirrors, Dead Boys, et al — forever painted the burg’s mid-’70s scene in lurid shades of radioactive purple. Now, a tiny scene seems to be stirring anew among the great-great-grandchildren of the Velvets. Sharing temperaments, members and practice spaces are electronicists 9-Volt Haunted House, psych-garage shoegazers New Planet Trampoline, cosmic cowboys the Dreadful Yawns and pop-drone space-rockers the Volta Sound. The Class of 2002 doesn’t sound like the dark, grimy place it was a quarter-century ago (Day-Glo orange, maybe?), but these youngsters do uphold the Clevo underground tradition quite nicely.
The latter sextet’s My All American Girl plows blissfully through several decades’ worth of cool. To wit: The fuzzy jangledom of the title track blends Feelies hypno-groove with a vintage R.E.M. riff, while the strummy acoustica and lysergic effects driving “High” make for a happy marriage between the Brian Jonestown Massacre and pastoral-mode Pink Floyd. And at least two awe-inspiring numbers saddle up on the Reed-Morrison pony and ride it for all it’s worth. “Sleepy Crunchy” plugs chiming, searing guitars into the mainline as the ghost of Mo Tucker’s kit nods on approvingly, and the riotous “Right Up To You” shudders across waves and waves of sweet sistah Ray’s orgasmic grunts (extra points for the Spacemen 3 fuzztone, the Stooges wah-wah and the Jesus & Mary Chain vocals — talk about cool). Elsewhere one detects chunks of Byrds, Stones, Spiritualized and Stone Roses, but to its credit the members of Volta Sound never come across as musical academics. The feel is real, the vibe authentic.
So the question arises: Why Cleveland? Well, they had to do it somewhere, right?
E-mail Fred Mills at email@example.com.