Let us now praise famous do-rag-wearing guitarist/songwriter/deejay/record execs. Now, unless Clive Davis has a couple side gigs or fashion proclivities I’m unaware of, I can think of only one person who fits the bill—Steven Van Zandt. Call him Miami Steve, Little Steven, Silvio Dante, or Steven Lento, his main nom de rock should be “Almighty Savior of Garage Rock”—that soul-stirring mongrel amalgam of rock, soul, surf, folk, blues, punk, and the kitchen sink. Progenitors and practitioners of the three-chord stomp owe the recent interest in their work to Van Zandt’s radio program Little Steven’s Underground Garage and its various offshoots, including festival concerts, the show’s Web site, its satellite radio channel, and the wonderful Wicked Cool Records, the label through which Van Zandt has released a stack of loud and proud albums by the likes of the Chesterfield Kings, the Cocktail Slippers, and the Grip Weeds.
Wicked Cool is also responsible for a series of bitchin’ compilations named after Underground Garage’s weekly “Coolest Song in the World” feature. The eighth volume of the series has just seen wide release (after a four-month exclusive period with f.y.e., which sponsors the show), and it is a keeper. With its focus on new and young bands, the album shows garage as a living, thriving endeavor.
Palmyra Delran of the girl group the Friggs kicks off the comp with “Baby Should Have Known Better,” locking into a punky groove and spiking her cautionary tale with the kind of repetitive chorus that lodges itself in the listener’s head for years. It’s a fitting start to the record—the song was selected by Underground Garage listeners as the “Coolest Song of 2008” and, well, it rocks.
“Terminal Boredom” finds the awesomely named Cute Lepers rocking a tune that could have been a Clash outtake. The Lepers are currently signed to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records—a fitting connection, as Jett’s influence can be felt on a number of tracks led by female singers, like the Downbeat 5’s “Dum Dum Ditty,” which channels the Crystals through a Bad Reputation filter. That track would have made a an equally great Phil Spector single or deep cut on the Ramones’ first record, as would a number of old and recent Joan Jett tracks.