Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Flamin Groovies: Supersnazz [CBS Special Products, 1990]
This apparently modest 1969 LP was recorded before these onetime San Francisco folk-rockers found a market niche as the thinking man's Sha Na Na, pointing garage rock back toward the '50s with songs that seldom approached the content-free ideal of the one we all remember, "Shake Some Action." Instead they spent $80,000 of Columbia's money trying to figure out either what kind of hippies they were or why they weren't hippies at all. Half the songs sound like '50s covers, but only three or four are: Eddie Cochran's "Somethin' Else" and Huey Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia," good calls for the time and they did love their dropped G's, plus Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It," composed by jazzbo-for-hire Bobby Troup, and the earlier "Pistol Packin' Mama," beloved of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. The primal-sounding "Love Have Mercy" and "Bam Balam" they made up themselves in an attempt to have simpler and sexier fun than was dreamed of by Blue Cheer, the Sopwith Camel, or the blues-tripping psychedelic establishment. "The First One Is Free" may not be altogether tongue-in-cheek. "A Part From That" exposes the bummer man. And while "Pagan Rachel"'s Rachel and "Brushfire"'s Dottie may strike some as all too old-fashioned sex objects, the prize is "Laurie Did It," which quietly ponders, praises, celebrates, and mourns a dead girlfriend, shaking its fist at God all the while. A