Concept album. Rock opera. Worrisome terms, both.
On the one hand, it’s great to see rock bands, many of whom are rightly assumed to have the attention spans of goldfish, applying themselves for lack of a better word, writing collections of songs instead of just collecting enough songs to put out a new album. However vague and noncommittal the central theme, the literary effort of putting together a rock opera or a concept album should at least be appreciated.
On the other hand: Keep your bloody concepts out of my rock hedonism! Strict separation of rock and concept! Concept albums out of my uterus! You know who has concept albums? Queensrÿche, that’s who! Next thing you know, the Makers will be telling us they’re classically trained!
I jest. Everyone knows the Makers are anything but classically trained. They’re a bunch of brawlers from Spokane’s Felony Flats who fell hard for punk rock and Gene Vincent/Link Wray-style wildman madness close enough together that when it came time to give it a try, the Makers got it right almost from day one. Two-fisted trash rock with punk chops and Lilac City street smarts. Red raw production values that don’t dress up but completely denude the aesthetic on countless singles and the band’s first five full-length albums. Nothing that thousands of other bands weren’t doing at the same time, but the Makers did it with a brand of flash matched only by the Mummies: dressed somewhere between Teddy boys and Edwardian dandies, pulling up to their shows in a ’65 Bonneville hearse, passing out fat lips and black eyes for autographs. Looking for a place to start? March down to the record shop and pick up a copy of The Makers, aka “The Middle Finger Album” (trust me, you’ll know it when you see it). Whatever you do, don’t start with Rock Star God, the aforementioned concept album, and work your way backwards.
1998’s excellent, very successful Psychopathia Sexualis suggested some changes were afoot. Were the Makers getting bored with the three-chord monte, looking to build a bridge to a secret glam-rock past? Something in shiny gold britches, perhaps, with waistcoat to match? If Psychopathia Sexualis hinted as much, Rock Star God all but puts it in writing in the presence of notary publics Bowie, Bolan, and Daltrey. But it’s not quite that simple. The second most amazing thing about Rock Star God (the first being that such a sophisticated record should come from the same fellows who, until just a few years ago, seemed more than satisfied with no-fi, tape-hiss garage primitivism) is the scope of the rock sounds they manage to summarize and compress into just 55 minutes without ripping anybody off. Rock Star God veers from silky ballads to crunchy glam decadence and back again, capturing the pink-fur overtones of the rock opera in all its pretentious and overreaching splendor but paring it down for a new era. It’s great. It also ain’t Howl or All Nite Riot. So are the Makers going soft on us?
I say no, but I dare you to ask them in a dark alley.
The Makers stomp the Ritz a new mudhole this Saturday, Oct. 14 with special guests the Everyday Sinners. 10 PM. $5.