Known the world over for his seditious and groundbreaking contributions as chief flamethrower of the incendiary MC5, brother Wayne Kramer has steadily evolved into one of the most important and underrated lyricists and songwriters ever to draw a breath — this after a prolonged and classic battle back from the bottom. Few rock ’n’ roll comebacks ever approach, much less exceed, the creative content of an artist’s initial impact — but here’s a man who has, in a profound way, made the second act count.
Traces of the MC5 are ubiquitous in all things garageland these days, from the Vines to the Hives. Said tips of the hat, however, are generally culled from the most superficial elements of the MC5: its libidinous machismo, frizzy hair-don’ts and deedle-deedle-deedle jazz-metal jack-offs. So why is this second solo album reissue more essential than any MC5-derivative record currently getting pushed? The songs.
Some will rattle on for another hundred years about Kramer’s Hendrix-like gift for painting songs with both fluttery watercolors and violent, cobalt-acrylic smears of Jackson Pollock frenzy and garish splatter on the ’lectric guitar. His real magic is how vividly he puts across his vocals — casually breathing compassion, humor and gut-wrenching honesty into his stories.
The autobiographical “No Easy Way Out” and the poignant instrumental, “A Farewell To Whiskey,” are both tinged with a grace born of experience. Songs such as “Back When Dogs Could Talk,” “Revolution In Apt. 29,” “Snatched Defeat” and “Count Time” all take you on an “auto-mythological” grainy trip back through Kramer’s glory days with the exalted Motor City Five and the band’s impassioned calls for “rock ’n’ roll, dope and fucking in the streets.” They continue through his ill-fated stint alongside a doomed Johnny Thunders in Gang War, his jail time for selling dope to the feds, and his slow crawl back from social and self-induced chemical oblivion.
The Return Of Citizen Wayne — Kramer’s Purple Rain — is an extremely visual, sonic/cinematic demolition joyride through an authentically rebellious era many of us MTV babies can’t rightly imagine. It’s real soul music for burnouts and survivors and former hippie activists and shit workers and slaves: all the good people who fell for the ruse and through the cracks of the American dream. And this remastered reissue (on Kramer’s own Muscletone label) is enhanced with three bonus audio/video tracks “Cheques From Chairman Mao,” “Back When Dogs Could Talk” (Chunky Style Re-Mix) and “No Easy Way Out” (Radio Edit). It also features the short film Citizen Wayne, and includes a deluxe booklet with liner notes and lyrics.
Check out The Racketeers by Mad For The Racket, his all-star side project with members of Blondie, the Police, Guns N’ Roses and the Damned. While you’re at it, visit www.waynekramer.com.
Wayne Kramer will perform Saturday, July 6 at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; call 313-833-9700 for information.
E-mail Dimitri Monroe at firstname.lastname@example.org.