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Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit (Sympathy for the Record Industry)

Wednesday, Jul 25 2001
A recent Entertainment Weekly article on Detroit's garage rock revival hinted that the Motor City might be the ever elusive "next Seattle." If it does get slobbered on by the mainstream, D-town will most likely become saturated with overproduced copycat bands, major label marketing experts, and European film crews trying to "tell it like it is." For now, however, the spotlight continues to unearth a dynamite batch of supercharged rock 'n' rollers, from the White Stripes to lesser-known groups like the Gore Gore Girls.

No one's espousing the hometown pride quite like Stripes frontman Jack White, who recently toured with the Detroit flag as his backdrop. "Detroit is the best," said White in a recent phone interview. "We've gone on tour so many times, and I've never seen bands in other cities like the bands that are here. It's really just amazing. I thought it was just because I'm used to the sound of certain things at home, but no. People in other cities say the same thing -- that they like Detroit bands the best."

Recently, White put his sonic affections on record, engineering, producing, and co-mixing the compilation Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit. According to the liner notes, the album "documents a time period in Detroit's music history" and features true punk bands that "don't suffer from the anxiety of not getting signed or not getting their music in a film." While the Stripes seem to be everywhere at once these days, other groups on Sympathetic Sounds are so underground they've got dirt in their pockets. On "Black Girls," little-known Paybacks frontwoman Wendy Case steals the show with gritty vocals that cross Tina Turner with Faces-era Rod Stewart. The Dirtbombs follow Case's homage with their own tale of "brown-skinned honeys," a catchy rock sing-along called "I'm Through With White Girls." Other highlights include the Soledad Brothers' harmonica-laced number "Shaky Puddin'," the Buzzards' snotty old-school punk track "High Class," and the history-of-a-damaged-man number "Whiskey 'n' Women" by the Clone Defects.

Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit is not only a smartly timed release -- coming out as legions of garage rock lovers turn their ears to the town's amps -- it's also a well-compiled slice of Detroit, a city that's housed everything from Motown to Alice Cooper, the Stooges to techno, and, in a recent dry spell, Eminem to Kid Rock. Sympathetic Sounds may only be a glimpse at a scene that's been weakening punk knees since the mid-'80s, but with so many talented acts sharing the same slab of vinyl, the record is a damn fine sampler.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz


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