BY FRED MILLS
Lord, where did these guys come from—and more important, why the hell haven’t we heard of ‘em before now? Try Googling the band name; you’ll likely hit a dead end for a few pages, although the, er, imaginative liner notes to this part-reissue, part-new release comprising 2004 and 2013 tracks do float the notion that The It*Men (asterisk not optional) might have been pre-punk heroes of the early ‘70s Midwest. (Those liner notes, penned by one “Prof. Orville Pricklepatch,” are almost worth the price of admission alone here, served up in neo-historical style that manages to channel the journalistic spirits of both Lester Bangs and Robert Palmer.)
At any rate, as fronted by one leather-lunged Ken Jannsen, apparently a fixture on the Cleveland indie/garage scene for some time, The It*Men coulda been contenders back in the day, had they actually been “back in the day,” and luckily we’ve got ‘em here in this day to champion. And given the sound here on this double album, a shotgun marriage of Stooges/MC5 Motor City fuh and Pere Ubu/Electric Eels Clevo art-skronk, that fanciful backstory mentioned above will do. Right from the get-go, with the jetpack blasts and primal yelps ‘n’ grunts of “Tell You the Truth” and the “Search And Destroy”-isms of “Come And Get Some,” all the way through the blue collar swagger of “Screw the Pooch” and the X-rated yoga lesson that is “Modified Cobra Position,” these guys deliver the thrashing, synapse-scorching, Budweiser-guzzling anthemic goods. Glom onto some of the other songtitles: “Doing Drugs for You,” “(You Gotta) Pay the Man,” “Screw the Pooch,” “(Lily the) Deepthroat Killer.” Any more questions?
Whoah, all that, and a 21-minute kosmiche boogie jam called “Death Machine” that takes up the entirety of this two-LP set’s Side 4. Somebody call CREEM magazine, pronto, and tell ‘em we have located their next cover stars.
DOWNLOAD: “Tell You the Truth,” “That’s Not the Way I Heard It,” “Death Machine”
A version of this review appears in issue #14 of BLURT. Vocalist Jannsen was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease and, according to Cleveland media reports “has been undergoing treatments to slow the progression of the disease.” His former bandmates got back together in June to host a multi-band benefit for him called The Last Waltz of The It*Men. They also mounted an online crowd-funding campaign to raise money for Jannsen