Lost In Rock – #1 Crash Kelly
Penny Pills (TB Records, 2003)
Waiting For An Alibi EP (TB Records, 2003)
Electric Satisfaction (Liquor & Poker, 2006)
Love You Electric (Bad Reputation, 2008)
One More Heart Attack (Warrior, 2008)
It may surprise you, dear reader, to learn that that Pure Rawk has now been going for nearly a decade. Now when a webzine gets to that sort of age, there comes a time at every staff meeting where we end up sitting about reminiscing about the “old days” and wondering whatever happened to certain bands that we were all raving about way back when and were convinced were going to be the next big thing and be on their way to stardom (or at least playing slightly bigger venues and troubling the lower end of the charts) next year.
For a lucky few, it happened – groups like the Black Spiders and a couple of others are ones that our esteemed ed Nix and others on the staff have been singing the praises of since the early days and who have since deservedly moved on up to the big leagues. But for every one that makes it, there’s at least a dozen who don’t. Bands who burn brightly for a few singles, maybe even an album or two if they get that far, before vanishing abruptly into thin air (or, more accurately, back to the dreary nine-to-five world) leaving us all with a few happy memories of gigs and wondering why they didn’t sell more records than they did?
Anyway, long story short, that’s where this column comes in. It’s a chance for us here at Pure Rawk to look back at some of the bands who’ve rocked our world over the last decade (or two for the older ones of us writing here) and encouraging you lot to go investigate them. Who knows, we may even get a couple of reunion tours out of it if one of ’em reads it. If so, you can thank us later.
It seems rather apt that the first band we’re covering here is Crash Kelly as they had a song on their second album called “33 On The Charts” which could almost be the theme tune for this column – an ode to all those bands who get a brief glimpse of fame and a healthy cult following (hence the title) before fading from view after a couple of albums. And the irony is, it could almost have been this band’s epitaph. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here – first, a bit of backstory…
Believe it or not, there was a time eight or nine years ago when Canada was actually staking a claim to be the new rock ‘n’ roll centre of the world. Around the turn of the millennium, a string of great bands suddenly started making waves from the land of the maple leaf – Danko Jones, the Black Halos, Robin Effin’ Black and his Intergalactic Rock Stars…and Crash Kelly.
Fronted by Marc Bolan lookalike Sean Kelly, Crash Kelly put out a trio of great albums in their eight-odd-year existence before general apathy sadly sunk them. Their debut, 2003’s “Penny Pills”, was a confident opening statement (picks – “Irish Blessing ’95”, “Eleven Cigarettes”, “She Gets Away”) but it was the follow-up, 2006’s “Electric Satisfaction” that really saw them spread their wings and is the one you should really dig out as a starting point. One thing I remember about both albums was Sean putting a sort of introduction to each song on the lyric sheet explaining what it was about – a small touch but a good one if you ask me. It was around 2004 or so (I think – my memory’s not what it used to be) that I saw them supporting the Quireboys in Bradford and, fair play to ’em, they gave the headliners a good run for their money – no mean feat when you’re supporting Spike and co.
See, the reason I miss Crash Kelly is quite a similar one to why I like the Quireboys – they were undoubtedly a very ’70s rock influenced band but they were smart enough to take the good bits of that decade and blend ’em into something that people would want to go and see live. We’re talking the razor-wire guitar lines of Thin Lizzy, the big bubblegum choruses of prime time Kiss, the glorious rock star abandon of early ’70s Bowie or T-Rex, the foot-stomping dynamics of Slade and little bit of Hanoi/Dolls trashiness thrown in just to spice the mix up a bit. Take a listen to “Electric Satisfaction” and storming songs like “Hang Out Where You Matter”, “Ride The Wire”, “She Put The Shock In My Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the aforementioned “33 On The Charts” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s like a megamix of all the good exciting bits of the ’70s and it shows that if you pick the right bits of this era as the building blocks for your band’s sound and add a bit of your own personality to it, you can come up with something pretty damn special.
That’s what bugs me about a lot of the bands in the “retro-rock” bracket nowadays – a lot of them just sound so depressingly old before their time and believe that rock should be worthy, workmanlike and solid. Now these are all things I’d expect if I was buying a table from Ikea but not from a rock ‘n’ roll band thanks – give me excitement over that most horrible of words, “authenticity”, any day (this is rock ‘n’ roll folks, not a Civil War Re-Enactment Society). The Zep (and for that matter the AC/DC) thing has been done to death in recent years and I’ve yet to come across a single band that’s managed to pull it off even half as well as the originals. To me, it all just sounds dull, humourless and pointless. There’s nothing wrong with liking Zep or Angus and co but at least try and add some ideas of your own to the mix or put an original twist on the formula. If you can’t manage that then you’d be a lot more honest by just cutting out the middle man and joining a tribute band.
Anyway, although Crash Kelly managed to make a fairly big splash in their native Canada (and even managed to snag a couple of enormodome support slots in the States), they never really broke through over here criminally. A compilation of the best moments from the first two albums, “Love You Electric” surfaced on Bad Reputation, a European label, and is well worth tracking down if you can’t find the originals. They kept it together for a third album, 2008’s “One More Heart Attack”, another fine selection of tunes with the storming title track a particular stand-out, but it bombed just the same as the previous two also undeservedly had and since then…nothing.
So what happened to ’em then? Well, a quick glance at Wikipedia reveals the sad truth – following a two-year spell with Canadian rock veterans Helix, Sean is currently earning a crust working as a live guitarist for … Nelly Furtado. Which no doubt pays a lot better than touring with Crash Kelly ever did but still seems a criminal waste of the guy’s talents, both as a guitarist and a songwriter.
Me, I’m just hoping that Sean will take advantage next time there’s a break in Ms Furtado’s schedule to bag himself some studio time and treat us all to a fourth Crash Kelly album and, who knows, even a tour to back it up. Stranger things have happened and I’m sure when you’re as creative as Sean obviously is, it must get a bit dull working as a hired hand after a while no matter how good the pay is. In the meantime, all I can urge you is to track down all three Crash Kelly albums and give ’em a spin – this is the REAL way that ’70s retro rock should sound.
Ride that wire and enjoy.