Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Best Thing I Heard Today: Iron City Houserockers doing "We're Not Dead Yet"

If you're analyzing the decline of MySpace, look no further than this damning sentence:

"We're sorry but we didn't find any results for 'Iron City Houserockers' when we searched in Music on MySpace."

As any presidential candidate could tell you, you can't win if you don't suck up to Pennsylvania! To be fair, Pittsburgh's favorite son and Houserockers leader Joe Grushecky does have a myspace of his own; but to get the full story, you have to hear this band. More and more, it's looking like you have to scrounge around in used vinyl bins to do so. (Or you can buy remastered CDs, yes. That's the best way to make sure Grushecky gets paid.)

"We're Not Dead Yet" depicts the Houserockers raging against the dying of the light with fire and panache. Since that particular song is dead to the Internet, here's "Junior's Bar" instead. It depicts a desperate loser trying to score with a 17-year-old, with anything BUT fire and panache.

Grushecky was and may still be a special-ed teacher in Pittsburgh, probably an even tougher job than trying to make it in the music biz. (He's also still making well-received music.) The Houserockers were on MCA and came tantalizingly close to hitting it big, but got dropped after three albums. They were sort of the missing link between two strains of drinking rock: the new-wave British pub-rock of Graham Parker, and the throwback American bar-rock of Springsteen. Their second album, Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive!, pulled those strains together with production by Springsteen sidekick Steve Van Zandt and glam hero Mick Ronson, among others. Grushecky sang with the passion of all those guys, and he wrote some really good songs to boot.

Chuck Eddy on the Houserockers: "Listening to radio in Detroit in 1980, I deduced that Iron City Houserockers' blues-rock was new wave and Herman Brood's blues-rock wasn't, but history proved me wrong on both counts."

And Jimmy Guterman: "All [the Houserockers'] characters... end up crushed, muttering warnings for those about to face the wheel. This bloodied defiance linked the Iron City Houserockers to punk..."

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