Beat The Devil
I Just Wanna Play Guitar
Dirty Woman Blues
Yer Too Good Fa Me
Eat My Dust
Ya Never Got Me Down
She’s So F****n’ Sexy
I Was Right, You Were Wrong
Shut Yer Hole
There’s this guy who lives in New York City. He doesn’t live in a neighborhood so much as he lives in this intangible no-man’s land where times stands still. It is a thrilling place to visit but you can’t get there in a taxi. In this part of New York City, St. Mark’s Place is a punk rock alleyway and Tompkins Square Park is a place to cop heroin, not a rich-girl dog run. CBGB’s doesn’t sell three hundred dollar shirts to rockstar wannabees, and Limelight is a decadent nightclub filled with trannies and goths, not an upscale marketplace for hipster tourists on an 80s pilgrimage. Max’s Kansas City is there, along with Scrap Bar, the China Club, The Bottom Line and Coney Island High. Cigarette smoke fills the air, the music is rock, and it is young, loud and snotty.
If you want to get there, there is only one way to go and that is to follow that guy. His name is Rob Carlyle. He sings and plays guitar; and with his band, The Compulsions, stands defiantly in the face of what passes for modern music. Carlyle’s gritty sound is strictly Keith Richards riffing on old blues guys, by way of The Stooges and The New York Dolls. For almost ten years, Carlyle has been putting out EPs like he’s auditioning for Mick Taylor’s place in the Stones. Now, he’s arrived with his first full-length album and, thankfully, nothing has changed.
With Richard Fortus (guitars) and Frank Ferrer (drums) on loan from Guns N’Roses, and Sami Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks (and the revamped Dolls as well as the Mike Monroe band) on bass, The Compulsions are a full-on rawk band. They play dirty, sleazy, twin-guitar blues-based rock and roll; the lyrics never go over your head or try to be poetry, but what’s clear from the sound is that these guys mean what they say. They came to rock, they have the pedigree: this is no bullshit. In an age where anyone can make music on a laptop, The Compulsions are refreshingly authentic. And that authenticity shines through on “Beat The Devil.”
The album trades rockers and ballads and lets the band show off what’s been thrilling their New York audiences for the past few years, with a couple of surprises. “Hired Gun,” a sleazy, glammy sex-rocker, kicks things off with Carlyle setting the tone for the album, singing about guns (but talking about his dick). “I Just Wanna Play Guitar” follows in this vein before things mellow out for the excellent standout “Dirty Woman Blues.” Using a quote from Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust” the band moves from blues pickin’ to a shimmering moody chorus as it descends into a rave-up of leads and pedal-steel guitar. The Stonesy ballad “Yer Too Good Fa Me” (a la “Beast of Burden”) stands out as a sad, neo-country bummer about a guy letting go of his lady. Before the tears are dry, though, “Eat My Dust” turns that song on its’ ear with a punk-n-roll kiss-off that clocks in under a minute.
“Ea$y Money” crawls like a junkie slithering across the floor of his East Village apartment looking for a fix. While the band pounds away behind him Carlyle sounds like a hungover Stiv Bator, before reverting back to his Noo Yawk rawk voice to tell a Jersey girl where to go on “Ya Never Got Me Down.” Girls that come and go seem to be a theme in The Compulsions world, and the longing for one of those girls on the lustful “She’s So F****n’ Sexy” is a little taste of what Nine Inch Nails might sound like if Reznor played the blues. It stands out from the album as the only song that has neo-industrial programming effects, though it grows more likeable with each listen.
The album closes with two gems: “I Was Right, You Were Wrong” a blistering three-chord rocker that propels the chorus to anthemic heights. The song has been a staple of the band’s live shows since the early days and was recorded for a NYC band compilation but never recorded by the band for its’ own release. Here, the band adds a little wah (and something that sounds like a talk-box) to enhance the song; though truly the song is a fantastic go-fuck-yourself rocker it is unimpeachable in its excellence.
The last song is “Shut Yer Hole,” a not-at-all subtle blues jam with some salty lyrics, warm harmonica and the unexpected treat of the late Hubert Sumlin (who played lead guitar for Howlin’ Wolf). Carlyle seems to be having the time of his life on this one and it’s a lot of fun listening to him spit and cuss while the 80-year old Sumlin blazes away on his guitar.
“Beat The Devil” may not be a commercial radio breakthrough, but it’s a scorching collection of songs by the best rock band New York City has had since Johnny Thunders died. At their worst, they conjure comparisons to a few staples of classic rock radio; but at their greatest, The Compulsions are the one true hope New York City has of reclaiming its’ rock and roll glory. The Compulsions fucking rock: what more do you need?
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