Early American punk fanzines had little to write about, which is probably why New Order (the first/American one) got a lot of press. But just because the group featured Ron Asheton (ex-Stooges guitarist), Scott Thurston (ex-Stooges keyboardist and future Motel) and Dennis Thompson (ex-MC5 drummer) didn’t mean its music had to be worthwhile. The New Order is full of misplaced guitar breaks, heavy metal sludge and little or no passion. Some things look great on paper, but on vinyl this one stinks.
New Race, a 1981 one-Australian-tour aggregate of Asheton, Thompson and three former members of Radio Birdman (including guitarist Deniz Tek — who grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan — and singer Rob Younger), fares a lot better on The First and the Last, an album recorded live and then improved in the studio by an added guitarist on two numbers and a backing vocalist on three. Production, sound and playing are all real good; the energy level is impressive. The MC5’s “Looking at You” gets a blistering seven-minutes-plus raveup alongside several Birdman tracks and one (ugh!) topical number, “November 22, 1963,” written by Asheton and Niagara, his singing bandmate in Destroy All Monsters. The First and the Last, while not an essential historic document, is nonetheless a powerfully charged rock’n’roll album with some searing moments.