Feel The Noise

Paul Collins

Alive Records, 2014

http://www.paulcollinsbeat.com/

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/01/2014

It’s been suggested before that there has only ever really been one song in rock n’ roll, that has been written and rewritten over and over and over for the past 60 years. For anyone seeking evidence of this, I’d recommend track 10 of this album, “Baby I’m In Love With You,” which suggests that there really hasn’t been anything new to say since Buddy Holly first picked up a guitar. From the big, stuttering opening beat that feels lifted right out of from Holly’s “Cryin’ Waitin’ Hopin’,” to the urgent pleas of one young lover for the attentions of another, it’s all there.

The punchline is that it’s being sung by a 58-year-old man. The conceit of this album, right down to the cover photo of Paul Collins circa 1979, is to pretend that the last 35 years never happened. For Paul Collins, it’s still the New Wave era and he’s still playing Ramones-ey two-guitars-and-no-keys garage rock that takes late ’50s / early ’60s rock n’ roll formula and adds a punkish edge to it.

Opener “Feel The Noise,” intended as a sort of topic sentence, is actually one of the weaker tracks here, a rather predictable assertion of the power and significance of rock n’ roll itself, but it’s at least delivered with sincere passion. Things improve right away with “Only Girl,” featuring agile guitar lines over a 4/4 beat. (A former drummer himself, Collins keeps the drums big and driving throughout this album.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Need My Rock N’ Roll” is another rather meta ode to the music itself, but in this case Collins so deftly recreates the magic of listening to songs on the radio as a kid that you can’t help going along for the ride. “Don’t Know How To Treat A Lady” follows, a semi-feminist rant set to a pummeling backbeat. “With A Girl Like You” spotlights Collins’ ability to combine early rock styles, as he opens up with a rockabilly twang that suggests a Carl Perkins number, but when the vocals come in, they’ve got that yelp-y punk edge to them that place them firmly in late-’70s New Wave territory.

The time-traveling continues as Collins remakes his own “Little Suzy,” a tune dating back to his early band The Breakaways (successor to The Nerves and precursor to both The Plimsouls and Paul Collins’ Beat), which both reinforces Collins’ essential “pleading loser” persona and pays homage to the Everly Brothers classic “Wake Up Little Susie.” The pleas continue in “Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind.”

The final two tracks here make for an interesting pair. I’m still ambivalent about Collins’ cover of the Temptations’ “Reach Out I’ll Be There”; on the one hand, remaking this familiar Motown classic as an exuberant garage-band thumper is gutsy and full of fire, but on the other hand the drama of David Ruffin et al’s brilliant vocal arrangement is both missing and missed.

Closer “Walk Away,” on the other hand, works like a charm, as Collins turns the typical “my-woman-done-left-me-and-I’m-so-sad” narrative on its head and actually encourages his soon-to-be ex to walk away: “This time I’ll be fine / Baby you’ll see / When you walk away.”

Collins continues to tour frequently as Paul Collins’ Beat, playing the tunes of his youth as well as more recent compositions. In the interim, he’s issued some solo work that leans more to Americana, but it’s clear part of his heart will forever live inside that initial retro power-pop explosion of 1978-79. The passion and loyalty he clearly feels for the music of that era is a force that can’t—and shouldn’t—be denied. Rock on.

Rating: B+

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