They could have been bigger than the Red Hot Chili Peppers…
This quartet from Columbus, Ohio takes punk-funk to its logical extreme, combining a strongarm/goodfoot rhythm section with a guitarist (by the name of B) weaned on both James Brown and the Stooges, and a passionate harmonica- blowing singer (David Ellison). The results are pretty excellent: the casual vamps display an irreverent sense of humor and rock like crazy, drawing on two lifetimes of musical tradition for a blast of unstereotyped dance noise. The poorly recorded but enthusiastic six-song Land of Sugar (with an early drummer) contains both the original version of RCM’s quintessential original (“Get on the Bus,” a goofy lyrical sensibility applied to a sloppy funk workout) and a characteristic disco cover (the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster”).
Omerta boasts a brilliant rendition of “Get on the Bus,” covers of the OPs (“Fire”) and James Brown (“Payback”) and a bunch of ass-shaking originals that either rock tight or fall apart with equal panache.
Something New, Old and Borrowed (aka S.N.O.B.) reprises Land of Sugar in its entirety, adding five ostensibly live performances (including Led Zep’s “Immigrant Song” and a straight rocker called “Marv Diamond”) and two new studio recordings (“Happy at Home” is a classic).
Reaching the majors, the Mob tightened its instrumental wig and reduced funk to a smaller component of its personality, making Spin the World good and credible, but only as far as it goes. Co-produced with ferociously hot sound by Richard Gottehrer, the album has unprecedented variety, from mighty hip-hop (“Big Show”) to thrusting dance power (the zany “Silver Street”) to ’60sish rock’n’roll (“Stock Car Race”) to annoying jazzy doodles (“Corporation Enema”). All in all, the Mob survives the big- league transition adequately (the lyrics are especially cool) but without making enough of the opportunity. In a strange bit of in-state cultural poaching, “5 More Minutes” borrows its hook from Jo Jo Gunne’s “60 Minutes to Go.”
While Midnight Rose’s still shows some versatility in the stylistic bullpen, the album downplays the funk even further and aims for a more integrated rock- with-a-beat sound, concentrating the Mob’s efforts on songwriting more than showboating. The results are uneven, although never less than entertaining; the record is good fun, if not quite an intense treat. Whether Ellison is telling a sorry story of justice miscarried (“Big Mistake”), painting a sympathetic portrait of yuppiedom (“Pretty Good Life”) or ruminating on a damaged proboscis (“Drunkard’s Nose”), Mr. B (as he’s billed here) colors the songs in with cogent flashes of aptly aimed guitar as the rhythm section sets the rhythmic clock in motion.