I’m not exactly sure how I’ve never really listened to MC5 until now, but I figure tonight would be a good night to change that. MC5 was a proto-punk and garage rock band that was formed in the Detroit area in 1964. The group incorporated garage rock, hard rock, blues rock, and psychedelic rock together with high energy and anti-establishment tropes, which immediately make me think of The Stooges, which was another proto-punk and psychedelic garage rock band from the greater Detroit area (specifically Ann Arbor). Though MC5 was only together for about eight years until 1972, their music has led to five nominations to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A different iteration of the group formed in 2003 after the deaths of two original members in 1991 and 1994 from heart attacks; the reformation lasted nine years until another member passed away. This album, Back In the USA (1970), was the group’s debut studio album and second album overall. I really dig The Stooges album I listened to not too long ago, so I’m pretty stoked to give this album a listen. With that said, I’m going to jump on into the music.
“Tutti-Frutti” begins with a really interesting cover of the Little Richard track, which almost sounds like the band is playing the original song at double speed. Oh wow, the guitar lets loose for a really groovy solo for a moment. Wow, great tune and I’m excited to hear more.
Oh wow, “Tonight” gets started with a sort of psychedelic-laced bluesy garage rock tune that seems to chug along with some really groovy flavors. I really dig the clapping in this track, which adds a really interesting feel that reminds me a lot of The Stooges. Oh wow, the guitar lets loose again for a super sweet solo that I really dig. The track almost feels like a classic rock and roll tune from the earlier 1960s meets a sort of blues garage rock sound. Great track.
“Teenage Lust” gets started with some tight, high energy drums and guitar work that seem to evoke a sort of proto-punk sound. Oh wow, the song breaks through to a really sweet, melodic chorus that I’m really digging. Oh wow, the bridge in the track adds some super groovy flavors that seem to nearly meander into a psych-laced territory at times with some really groovy rock and roll sounds. I really dig what sound to be some sleigh bells in the percussion, which remind me a lot of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” from The Stooges’ 1969 self-titled debut album. Great track.
Oh wow, “Let Me Try” slows things down a lot with a sort of airy, mellow, bluesy track that I’m really digging. This track really seems like the group is showing their roots as a Detroit band with use of r&b elements from the Motown kind of sound. Oh wow, I really dig the gospel-esque background vocals and the building nature of the chorus. Holy smokes, a piano is introduced after a bit that plays a similar line to the mellow, repeated guitar part of the track. Oh wow, a tremolo’d guitar comes in after the piano section of the track. Wow, great track.
“Looking At You” gets started immediately with some tight, quick drums, and some fuzzed guitar that introduce a proto-punk sound that reminds me again of The Stooges that I’m really digging. Oh wow, a guitar comes in with some sort of bluesy hard rock lines that feel vaguely psychedelic as the rest of the instrumentation seems to continue grooving along with a sort of mellow, punk-inflected garage rock sound. I really dig the shakers in the rhythm section of the track. Holy smokes, the lead guitar keeps coming back with some really groovy licks throughout the track. Great tune.
“High School” has a really sweet, upbeat, almost doo-wop meets garage rock sort of feel with the bright rhythm section and the fuzzy guitar work. Oh wow, the background vocals come in at times with a sort of call-and-response feel that reminds me of doo-wop groups like The Coasters. Holy smokes, this track is super groovy; I’ve found myself tapping my foot along to the song. Super sweet tune.
Oh wow, “Call Me Animal” starts out with some tension building effects that soon launch into a soundscape that feels like a meetup of psychedelic garage rock and proto-punk, reminiscent of The Stooges. Holy smokes, the track enters another movement in the latter half of the tune that picks up an almost raga rock-esque, melodic psychedelic rock sound that I really dig. Great track.
“The American Ruse” gets grooving almost immediately with some classic rock and roll sounds from the early 1960s that seem to be infused with a proto-punk sound in both the instrumentation and the lyrics. Oh wow, the instrumentation almost seems to have a surf rock sound at times. Holy smokes, the lead guitar jumps into a super groovy rock and roll guitar solo that seems to evoke the spirit of Chuck Berry. Great track.
“Shakin’ Street” gets grooving with some really sweet, almost jangling, garage pop-oriented sounds that I really dig. The cadence of the vocals and the pop-like feel remind me a bit of Bruce Springsteen. I really dig the mixture of acoustic guitar with the distorted guitar work, which provides a really upbeat, pop-like sound that I’m digging. I really dig the almost heavy tone of one of the guitars as it plays a quick lick. Great tune.
“The Human Being Lawnmower” gets started with a medley of flavors that almost have a sort of building psychedelic rock sound reminiscent of coastal psych rock bands in the US around 1967. Oh wow, the track changes up a bit and seems to pick up a sort psychedelic blues rock sound reminiscent of groups like Cream. Oh wow, I really dig the chaotic, punk-like nature of the outro. Super sweet track.
“Back In the USA” gets started with some classic rock and roll licks for this Chuck Berry. Oh wow, this track is super groovy. The track has a really sweet proto-punk-inflection that seems to introduce some timbres and elements that give this cover a proto-punk rock and roll sound that I really dig. I definitely just sat back a bit and got really into this track as I listened to it. Great cover, and a super sweet way to finish up the album.
I’m definitely glad that I finally checked out MC5. Though MC5 doesn’t really remind me of The Doors at all like the self-titled 1969 debut album from The Stooges did, there was still a really groovy mixture of proto-punk and garage rock elements throughout that ventured at times in psychedelic rock, hard rock, bluesy, pop-like, r&b, and even doo-wop territory. If you enjoy The Stooges at all, or if you are interested in a proto-punk rock and roll sound, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, then I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the listening experience at least as much as I did.