Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Knack: “Live From The Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun House” (2002/2015) CD Review

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to see The Knack perform in concert. It was an outdoor show, and it was a ton of fun, far exceeding my expectations. Live From The Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun House, originally released in 2002, will give you a taste of that experience. And the new re-issue includes two tracks that were previously unreleased, and they’re placed in the appropriate spots in the set list rather than at the end. Omnivore Recordings has been re-issuing the final few albums from The Knack, starting with Zoom in May, and followed by Normal As The Next Guy in June, and now Live From The Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun House, which features songs from throughout the band’s career. This special re-issue includes new liner notes by Lee Lodyga, Prescott Niles and Berton Averre.

They kick off the CD with “Pop Is Dead,” the lead-off track from their 1998 release, Zoom. It’s a delightfully fun tune, and there is a lot of energy to this live rendition. “Please don’t trouble me/Not while I’m watching TV.” They keep the energy high by following that with “Baby Talks Dirty,” the lead-off track from their second album, 1980’s …But The Little Girls Understand. This tune was also released as a single, reaching #38 on the Billboard Hot 100. Sure, this song has a similar sound to “My Sharona,” but it really works, and has its own charm. They then go into “Oh Tara,” a song from the band’s debut album, Get The Knack. “You’ll never know what you’ve done to me/The agony and the ecstasy.”

They also do “Good Girls Don’t” from their debut album. It takes the audience approximately one second to recognize it and cheer. It’s a fun and catchy song about teenage lust, always a good subject for rock tunes. With the words we all love to hear: “Good girls don’t, but I do.” It was released as a single, reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. I love the use of harmonica on this song. “Siamese Twins (The Monkey And Me),” also from that first album, is one of my personal favorites. It’s such a cool and odd song, with a strong hook. “He's making me strange/The monkey and me/Sits on my back, shits on my back, piss on my back.” Also from that debut record, they do “That’s What The Little Girls Do” and “(She’s So) Selfish.” “(She’s So) Selfish” is one of the band’s best tunes, a song about a horrible tease. It has that great Bo Diddley beat, and some lyrics that kept it from getting airplay – “She give a wiggle and a wink/But she don't give a shit about/Anybody else but herself” and “She got the smile and the ass/And the power to flaunt” and “She’s a rich little bitch” and of course “When she takes you by the short hairs/It's the only thing she'll leave you down there/No fuck-a me fuck-a me today/No fuck-a me fuck-a me today/She's the prima donna queen/Coming from the Quaalude scene.” And, as if there were any doubt, they play “My Sharona,” the band’s giant hit from that first record. The crowd understandably gets very excited when they begin it, and so do I. This song still works for me every single time I hear it.

I am a little surprised that they chose to play “Can I Borrow A Kiss,” from Zoom. It’s not a bad song, but it’s probably my least favorite track from that album, and has a terrible title. I would have preferred to hear a live version of “Smilin’” or “Good Enough.” I am glad, however, that they include “Harder On You,” also from Zoom, on this CD. This version is excellent; the band is clearly having a great time with this one.

From Round Trip, the band’s third album, they do “Another Lousy Day In Paradise,” a good, fairly straight and bright pop tune, and “Sweet Dreams,” one of my favorite tracks on this CD. “Sweet Dreams” is probably the most interesting tune on this release. And from their fourth album, Serious Fun, they do only “One Day At A Time,” which is actually another of my favorite tracks. It’s totally catchy, and has a wonderful sweetness to it. Interestingly, they re-recorded this tune and included it on Normal As The Next Guy, which turned out to be the band’s final studio album, released in 2001. There are two other tracks from that CD on this live album, and they are the two bonus tracks – “It’s Not Me” and “Seven Days Of Heaven.” They were left off the album’s original release, but are included here in the correct spots in the set list. Normal As The Next Guy is a really strong album, and I would have loved this CD to include live versions of its title track and “Spiritual Pursuit,” but, hey, I’ll take what I can get. “It’s Not Me” is fun, and “Seven Days Of Heaven” has a delicious 1960s pop vibe. “One night is like seven days of heaven, baby, when I’m holding you.”

This live album ends with “(Havin’ A) Rave Up,” a damn fun rock and roll song from …But The Little Girls Understand, and then an interesting medley of covers: “Tequila” and “Break On Through (To The Other Side).” Sounds like an odd combination, right? This is when the band gets really loose, jamming at the end of “Tequila” before sliding into “Break On Through (To The Other Side).” There are band introductions as the track fades out.

CD Track List
  1. Pop Is Dead
  2. Baby Talks Dirty
  3. Oh Tara
  4. Can I Borrow A Kiss
  5. Another Lousy Day In Paradise
  6. Good Girls Don’t
  7. One Day At A Time
  8. It’s Not Me
  9. Siamese Twins (The Monkey And Me)
  10. Harder On You
  11. Sweet Dreams
  12. Seven Days Of Heaven
  13. That’s What The Little Girls Do
  14. (She’s So)Selfish
  15. My Sharona
  16. (Havin’ A) Rave Up
  17. Tequila/Break On Through (To The Other Side) 
This special re-issue of Live From The Rock ‘N’ Roll Fun House is scheduled to be released on July 14, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings.

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