City Slang: “Too Good to be True” revisited

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Sometimes these things happen by accident. I was bought this album by the Malakas as a Valentine’s Day gift by my wife. Sure beats candy.

The first thing to note is that the Malakas were not from Detroit, rather they were out of San Diego. Singer Cranford Nix was a Detroit native though, before his untimely passing, and this album (at least) was released by the very Detroit-based I-94 Recordings, the label that released a lot of Trash Brats and B-Movie Rats (more damn Californians) stuff, as well as some cool comps.

Nix died of a heroin overdose in 2002. I didn’t know him, but I’ve read a lot about him online since discovering this album, not least Brian Smith’s excellent 2002 feature, Too Late to Die Young. I didn’t need to read anything, though, to know that Nix had drug and alcohol dependency problems. Really, you only have to listen to the lyrics.

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On “Suicide or Alcohol”, for example, Nix sings of the only choices he feels he has left. Uplifting stuff, right? In fact, that’s the kicker. Nix sings songs of desperation, devastation and a complete lack of hope and, much like Johnny Thunders, manages to make it sound fun.

The songs are simplistic in that awesome, stripped-down garage way, but the bubblegum tunes are undeniably prevalent. And when Nix sings that all he wants for Christmas is the girl who is “so bad ass, she’s got tattoos, she’ll fuck you till your thighs turn black and blue”, you almost believe that he’s enjoying himself. He wasn’t. He was grasping at that dragon that he could never get his fingers on. Now he’s gone, and there will never be another Malakas record.

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