Dusting Off... MC5's Kick Out The Jams
What is it?
Released in 1969, Kick Out The Jams is the debut album by proto-punk band MC5. Formed in Detroit in 1963, MC5 were not like most of the bands from their era. While bands like The Beatles were busy captivating America with their sharp suits, mop-top haircuts and irresistible pop melodies, MC5 were on a very different path, churning out gnarly, angry garage rock and hanging out with the Black Panthers.
Led by vocalist Rob Tyner, along with guitarists Fred “Sonic” Smith and Wayne Kramer, MC5 has spent several years making a name for themselves on the live circuit before they were famously signed by Elektra along with their friends, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, on the same day.
Kick Out The Jams is one of the only examples of a debut album that was recorded from live performances instead of in a recording studio. The result is a palpable energy that fizzes out of the speakers, with Tyner's politically-charged lyrics and the twin guitars of Smith and Kramer creating a menacing wall of sound.
Highlights include the barnstorming title track – once famously sampled by anarchic house duo KLF – as well as the furious energy of 'Come Together' and the blues-heavy grind of 'Motor City Is Burning', but above all this is just one of the best live albums from the 1960s.
Why should I revisit?
MC5 have been hugely influential on bands from a range of genres, not only for their music, but also for their political activism. Other than perhaps Rage Against The Machine, it's hard to think of a band that matches MC5 for sheer raw energy and angst-filled rage and the decision to create the album from live performances really instills the sense of time and place from an era when the struggle for equal rights among minority groups was at the height of its tension. It's a sad thought, but they just don't make 'em like this any more.
Who will enjoy it?
Fans of hardcore acts like Black Flag or Minor Threat will probably already be aware of MC5 and their legacy, but if not, this is a great place to start.