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Review: 'MUGGS, THE'

-  Label: 'TIMES BEACH (www.themuggs.com)'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: 'August 2005'-  Catalogue No: 'TBO24'

Our Rating:
Rather like Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds over here, Detroit has cultivated a rich musical heritage for itself over the years by not giving a flying one what the scenemakers in New York and LA may or may not think.

Obviously you don't need to me to go over the well-worn trail that was blazed by the likes of The Stooges, MC5 and the Motown hit factory, while in more recent times, both the pioneering house scene and the White Stripes' unlikely world-straddling success story has ensured the motor city has retained both its' edge and its' profile. As ever, though, these are merely the headlines, and while in the recent past your reviewer has taken great delight in uncovering the magnificent likes of The Dirtbombs and The Sights, it seems with THE MUGGS he's hit paydirt once again.

Comprising Danny (guitars/vocals), Tony (Fender Rhodes bass/ vocals) and drummer Matt, The Muggs are clearly unashamedly in love with hoary old rock'n'roll and rarely acknowledge the existence of anything much beyond 1970, yet when played with the spirit, skill and abandon of virtually everything on their eponymously-titled album, such apparently Jurassic-era considerations are rendered irrelevant by the fervour of The Muggs' intrinsically funky white-boy blues-rock.

Opener "Need Ya Baby" gives you some idea what to expect. The bitchin' main riff takes Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" as a starting point, instils that famous middle-finger-raised Detroit attitude and gets a Doors-ish edge by way of the slinky fluidity of Tony's Fender Rhodes basslines. It's H-E-A-V-Y but melodious all the way and shows how adept these guys are with such monster grooves.

Great start, and The Muggs prove they are the masters of deviations on a theme as the rest of the album unfolds.   Songs like "Said & Done" and their humbucking cover of Muddy Waters' "Gonna Need My Help" are hipshakin', hugely phonky affairs that can't help reminding this hack of the swagger Free achieved in harness with Guy Stevens on "Tons Of Sobs", while the likes of "Rollin' B-side Blues" and "Monster" are the kind of low-down, dirty varmint rockers there ought to be a law against, but if there was we'd be delighted that The Muggs are going ahead and breaking it.

But for all the heads-down, no-nonsense boogie of all these songs and the excellent "Hard Love" - where they go the whole Doors hog and invite The Sights' Bobby Emmett in to add stabs of groovy Hammond - The Muggs' also harbour more expansive, starsailing ambitions if songs such as "Underway" and the closing "Doc Mode" are anything to go by. "Underway" brings us great, universe-straddling guitars akin to Hendrix's pioneering "Third Stone From The Sun" and atmosphere galore, while "Doc Mode" mixes up more out-there, Hawkwind-style exploration before pulling it all together for a final funky rock assault which takes a full, euphoric seven minutes to subside. And it's not a second too long, neither.

So there you have it. If you're expecting to hear "The Muggs" chasing after the zeitgeist then forget it because it went thataway while our heroes were sleeping. However, if you're expecting to hear yet another cool band who deserve to take their place in the pantheon of magic Michigan outfits who guffaw long and loud at the mention of the word 'fashion' then look no further. The Muggs sure ain't no mugs.
  author: TIM PEACOCK

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