Laced Candy

Gaza Strippers

Man's Ruin, 1999

REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/04/2004

Mastering the task of imperfection is an art. Notably few musicians have made worthwhile careers out of repeatedly turning a missed guitar or vocal note into the remembering trait of a song. For me, the two most successful names in navigating routes on the road unconventionally traveled are Neil Young and Bob Dylan, artists that are both coincidentally inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

So naturally, I'm prepared to talk about another artist with similarly unorthodox potential in vocalist/guitarist Rick Sims and his Chicago based rock quartet, the Gaza Strippers -- as evidenced by the band's first full length release, Laced Candy.

By all accounts, this album would be a total train wreck if it weren't for the whiny vocals of Sims mixing remarkably well with the overly liberated guitar riffing and wailing found on the album. It's the kind of dubious -- no wait, I mean reckless recording formula that makes me ever grateful that low budget indie record labels exist and that producers like Mutt Lange and similar perfectionists had their cheek proverbially turned while this album was recorded.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

This is Rick Sims' band -- and his legacy, if you want to call it that, had previously been defined in successfully guiding the obnoxious punk band, the Didjits, into one of the more visible bands on the scene. That band's notable stamp of inspirational approval came in the form of the Offspring covering "Killboy Powerhead" on their breakthrough album Smash.

Make no mistake though; the Gaza Strippers were not to become an obvious punk reincarnation of the Didjits. Laced Candy is a throwback rock album complete with gritty recording production, venturous guitar lead breaks, and the gnawing brilliance of Sims audacious lyrical compositions resonating throughout the album.

"Automat" makes brash references at sin as Sims teases the Holy Father by wittily betting his "sweet ass that he'd do it again." Sims finds this keen groove in matching words throughout Laced Candy and never seems to run short of such shrewd ideas. Match the wordsmith with his bratty vocal delivery and this recording instantly becomes a listen that is compelling enough to cause the listener to sing along to the lyrics found in the CD jacket.

The jewel found in Laced Candy is with the track "Throttle Bottom." Axl Rose had Slash's guitar solo to turn "Sweet Child O' Mine" into an instant classic. In the case of "Throttle Bottom," Sims benefits mightily by giving lead guitarist Mike Hodgkiss such a long rope to perform his two solos. As adventuresome as the solo's are, they shift through the proverbial gearbox with amazing ease.

Additionally, the fact that the Gaza Strippers cover the mesmerizing Love and Rockets track, "Yin and Yang (The Flower Pot Man)" gives credence to the fact that Laced Candy is intent on being an upbeat effort. The song is wide open and gives each member the space to shine. It's easily the most visible platform for drummer, Cory Stateler and bassist, Darren Hooper to create a lasting beat.

In the end, Laced Candy, should easily be classified as one of the more fun rock albums to listen to. Period. This album oozes charisma and testosterone in many ways that Young and Dylan never achieved due to the fact that their careers were spent pushing political commentary. As such, Sims doesn't rely on allowing his personality to "suck like a drain." He'd rather "make a raft and drift out to sea" to "get the best tan that you've ever seen."

If you were to consider doing such a thing yourself, Laced Candy will be one of the albums you want to have on you should you luckily get stranded on that deserted island.

Rating: A

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© 2004 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Man's Ruin, and is used for informational purposes only.