To many rock fans, Destroy All Monsters will forever be known as the project that Ronnie Asheton was in after the Stooges. The addition of Asheton certainly dragged the band out of bedroom obscurity and into the public's imagination. To others, however, it will always be Niagara's band; the artist-femme fatale was — and is — a captivating frontwoman, and she added a visual dimension to the Monsters that original members Cary Loren and Mike Kelly were absolutely not capable of.
But Destroy All Monsters isn't an ordinary band. For all intents and purposes, it's better known as two bands. There's the relatively conventional punk and art rock band that featured the MC5's Michael Davis as well as Asheton and Niagara — that's the band that recorded the immortal "Bored." But before that version, there was Kelly and Loren's Destroy All Monsters ... and there was nothing conventional about them.
74-76 is a three-CD, pre-Asheton and Davis (although Niagara appears sporadically) set that compiles all of the home-recordings and various oddities from the Loren-Kelly era that have been lying around gathering dust. Not all of it is great. A few of the 1976 tracks are, well, almost unlistenable. But this version of Destroy All Monsters was still consistently interesting at the very least. The two main protagonists were always thinking outside of the box and looking to create music that challenged the very definition of "music."
Melody? Hell, these guys scoffed at the notion.
To pick out specific tracks would be an exercise in futility. Each disc blurs together into three very long, screeching, droning slabs of noise that makes you wonder if Lou Reed was listening to Destroy All Monsters when he recorded Metal Machine Music (which was released in 1975). The songs featuring Niagara — "Paranoid of Blondes," a cover of Nancy Sinatra's (or Lee Hazlewood's) "These Boots Were Made for Walking" and a few others — are the most accessible here and hint at what would come from the next version of this band. But the real joy of these discs is to either remember or discover what a truly unique band Destroy All Monsters was from the very beginning.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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