At Testors gigs, Sonny Vincent would start the song “Awmah” by turning up to 11 and playing an abrasive and sonically confrontational intro. After he cleared the room and left only the true rocknroll fans, the band would proceed with the song. The Testors were playing to crowds of New York City hipsters, people going to Max’s Kansas City as a disco with a more risqué costume, and this was an aural ‘fuck you’ to the club’s clientele. They weren’t playing to the crowd, they were playing for themselves.
Rocknroll music sounds best when it’s made by obsessive rocknroll fans—people who live, sleep, eat, breath, and fuck rocknroll; people whose lives were saved by rocknroll and who NEED to be making noise. Rocket From the Tombs, 9 Shocks Terror, Koro, The Sonics, The Lost Sounds—were all possessed to uniquely and brilliantly express themselves with a guitar and a microphone. Most broke up early only to be put on a pedestal by the next generation but some stuck around long enough to become the next big thing. I’ve seen the Lost Sounds play five times on three tours, never to more than a few people, except at a party in Brooklyn that felt like what I imagine Max’s Kansas City’s would be if it were still around. The well, or at least carefully, dressed audience stood around while the band set up. “Ooh, keyboards! Let’s dance,” was a conversation to my left.
Like Sonny Vincent, The Lost Sounds erupted with a wall of energy and noise, but unlike their predecessor they never relented—their entire set was a sonic confrontation. The Lost Sounds articulate unquestionable honesty. It’s the sort of thing that might be lost on some expecting a harmless dance party, and the type of thing that keeps me alive. I wanna be able to jump around, sing along, dance, and bleed to the beat of the music; bang my head against the wall and scream in delight. I want to be assaulted by a wall of sound and energetic performance that leaves the band and crowd alike gasping for air, drained, and wanting more.
The Happy Birthday Hideout, a presumably illegal nightclub in a Brooklyn loft, was hundreds of people over what the fire code would have allowed had they gone legal. I shot straight for the corner and secured myself a spot on the couch, pushed far enough away from the action to give me a great view, not to mention a bit of breathing space. The room was crowded, a meeting spot in between two larger rooms, one for dance music, the other for live bands.
I could hear that the Crimson Sweet were finished up, so I pushed from my corner through two rooms to the front of the stage. My friend Jill managed to get to the bathroom, socialize, and still maneuver herself front and center. Alicja stood fixing the amps and Jill stood with her eyes fixed on Alicja. “Is she gay?” She thought for a moment, “I can tell she’s the type of girl who doesn’t want to go anywhere near a lesbian.”
And from next to us and behind us, we overheard great gossip about people I’d never know and bands I don’t care to hear. Alicja stepped to the microphone and introduced the band—not innocently, but certainly not indicative of what was about to happen.
The band blasted into song after song of sheer intensity. Most of their set was comprised of songs from their newest, and best, album “Rats Brains and Microchips,” which is more ambitious than previous Lost Sounds outings, working a cello into the mix, adding layers of sound. Gone are the more dirgey, melancholic songs, replaced with a stellar recording that better captures the ferocity of their live performances. The songs and production on “Rats” have a certain level of monumentality that Black Sabbath, Sir Lord Baltimore, or Blue Cheer had at their best, which might be why I’ve heard criticism of it for being “too metal.” While intensely musical, this LP lacks the showmanship inherent in metal. The Lost Sounds know what they’re playing, but they’re not flaunting it. Like “Vincebus Eruptum, “Rats” introduces a new level of maximum energy to the genre of rock music they play – what for Blue Cheer did to psych, the Lost Sounds are doing to garage.
The only breaks in their set were for instrument changes, but the intensity of the performance was maintained by the wailing synths, used as anything but a dance element. They set tone and melody, both harsh and sweet. In “1620 Eschles Street” Jay sang “I breathe the desperation, I feel it in the air” which he didn’t have to say for us to know. They played until the final song, a summation of the previous half hour, “Total Destruction” ended in screeching feedback. The room poured out and as us countless, breathless faces filed through the disco, the separation that Sonny was describing in “Awmah” was made very clear.
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