Matt Gimmick – Detroit Renaissance ’79 (Hozac)

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This 7″ EP is one of those releases that requires a bit of a history lesson in order to fully appreciate its worth. The guys in Matt Gimmick (which was a band name – there was nobody named Matt Gimmick) went to a Stooges show at the Detroit Palladium at some point in 1970/71, and snuck in a tape recorder. They walked out with a rare recording of the brief under-documented period when The Stooges had a twin guitar attack, with Ron Asheton and James Williamson both sporting axes. Inspired by what they saw, in 1973 they formed the presciently named band, The Punks, who recorded some lo-fi proto-punk material but never actually released anything during their lifetime.

Fast forward a few years later and The Punks, now known as Matt Gimmick, recorded a four-song EP, including two song they learned from that live Stooges tape, which are of particular interest to Stooges fans, as The Stooges themselves never recorded them in the studio. Those songs, “Rag” and “Ya Don’t Want My Name” are both riff-heavy rockers, with sleazy lyrics. “Ya Don’t Want My Name” is interesting in that it seems to borrow the riff from The MC5’s “High School” and the band begins it by saying “Goodbye Sid” in tribute(?) to Sid Vicious. These songs aren’t as developed as the material that made their albums, but they do present a tantalizing “what if” scenario for fans to ponder. The two Matt Gimmick originals are equally as Stooge-y as the covers. “Detroit Renaissance ’79” sounds a lot like the band’s post Raw Power output, complete with Iggy-ish whoops from vocalist Frantic, and guitarist Alan Webber pulling out all his best James Williamson moves. “Cry” is a moodier number a la “Open Up and Bleed” or “Gimme Danger”, giving the EP a little bit of range. As fun as it is to hear a band from the late-’70s so completely hellbent on sounding like The Stooges, let’s be real here – Matt Gimmick are a nice novelty, but they can’t approach the real thing in terms of energy or musicianship. Plus, the recording quality makes Bowie’s much maligned Raw Power mix sound like Sgt. Pepper.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, according to this article on the Dangerous Minds website, the cassette with that live Stooges recording, which the band remembers being really good quality, was lost a long time ago. Damn!