Hot Rats – Turn Ons

January 01, 1970

(Fat Possum)

 

www.fatpossum.com

 

 

The Hot Rats are
two members of Supergrass – guitarist Gaz Coombes and drummer Danny Goffey –
and Turn Ons is an album of covers
ranging from The Cure to Roxy Music to Pink Floyd. Although any of the twelve
cuts here could have easily slid onto a Supergrass album, they apparently felt they
should be recorded outside the canon of their main band. (Coombes and Goffey
are not new to these side excursions, having slipped off in the past to play
some clandestine gigs billed as The Diamond Hoo Hah Men.)

 

 

Despite the
limited instrumentation, the versatility on the album separates The Hot Rats from
the pack of bands flailing to surf the wake of The White Stripes. Simplicity merely
repeated gets monotonous, but The Hot Rats wisely employed Radiohead producer Nigel
Goodrich to add his brush to their canvas, and the result is an exciting and
surprising collaboration. At its core it’s brimming with the exuberance and
fearlessness of a garage band, and with twelve tracks in just over half an
hour, one is left wanting more.

 

 

Most of the arrangements
are fairly faithful to the original songs, albeit with a layer of Goodrich’s
sonic slathering. David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” retains its ringing
chords but is sweetened by violins, while the majestic approach production of
“The Crystal Ship” breathes such life into the Doors track that even
Morrison haters will nod their approval. The original choir echoes in “Big
Sky” are replicated along with Ray Davies’ spoken word verses, but it’s an
inspired choice from the Kinks catalogue. And perhaps it’s no coincidence that
two of the best songs on the album are not only sonic cousins to each other but
perfect candidates for The Hot Rats’ primal beat approach. Lou Reed’s “I
Can’t Stand It” could have been recorded in an alley, while “Pump It
Up” manages to capture all the intensity of Elvis Costello’s original with
only half the manpower.

 

 

The acoustic
thunder and clean piano chords underneath “E.M.I.” turn the Sex
Pistols’ bitter diatribe into a dance party anthem (not to mention making one
pine for the Pistols to record an Unplugged album), while Squeeze’s “Up
The Junction” remains wordy even when delicately presented at half speed (as
if the words themselves were too fragile to rush through). But jaws will drop
with “You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party,” a mind-blowing; acoustic
falsetto version that sounds like an early Who outtake.

 

 

Although an
album of covers won’t get many points for originality, Turn Ons scores big for enthusiasm and inventive execution. It
sounds like it was a lot of fun to make, and it’s definitely one of the more
joyous albums you will play this year.

 

 

Standout Tracks: “Pump It Up,” “Queen Bitch,” “E.M.I.”
BILL HOLMES

 

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