Led by guitarists Kim Kane and Marshall Keith, Washington, DC’s Slickee Boys have been scene stalwarts for a decade and a half; through a series of lineups they developed from a punky rock’n’roll band with an affection for classic English forebears into a far more individualistic and distinctly American band with their own ideas. Featuring the vocal stylings of Martha Hull (replaced by Mark Noone shortly thereafter), the five-song Hot and Cool 7-inch antes up one Kane original and covers like “Brand New Cadillac” and the Yardbirds’ “Psycho Daisies.” The four-song Mersey, Mersey Me has Kane’s inspiring “Put a Bullet Thru the Jukebox” as well as the Slickees’ fervent cover of the Grass Roots’ “Let’s Live for Today” and a swipe at Talking Heads’ “The Girls Want to Be with the Girls.” Third contains almost all originals, including Noone’s brisk “Gotta Tell Me Why.”
The German Here to Stay compilation recapitulates the contents of those three EPs and a pair of contemporaneous singles, adding the unreleased “Kids” as a bonus. Guileless, earnest, occasionally embarrassing, bizarre in its selection of covers (Talking Heads?), often exciting in its basic enthusiasm, Here to Stay is an unprepossessing, entertaining collection of homemade records by a developing band.
On Cybernetic Dreams of Pi the Slickee Boys play brawny, good-natured power pop. Songs like “When I Go to the Beach” (jolly surf parody), “Pushin’ My Luck” and a breezy version of Status Quo’s ancient “Pictures of Matchstick Men” may be a bit glib, but are loads of fun nonetheless. Uh Oh…No Breaks! finds the quintet plundering their own vaults to re-record their best material. No matter: all thirteen tracks display the same vim and charm of Cybernetic Dreams and scads more skill and smarts. Melodies, hooks and energy to spare, variety and clever lyrics — these boys may not be rock’s le dernier mot, but they are worth hearing.
Twelve years on, the Slickee Boys were still going strong, even if they again had to go abroad to get a record released. Fashionably Late is another winner — the rock’n’rolling spunk of the original Flamin Groovies crossed with the seasoned flair and solidity of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Although a bit less varied than usual (Side 1 concentrates on driving music; Side 2 is lighter and more melodic), this is another easy-to-like outing from a natural energy resource that will, thank goodness, never be fashionable.
The Slickee Boys’ live LP, recorded in France in mid-’88, finds the quintet energetically running through a retrospective program of going-stale tunes dating as far back as 1979. Tight and proficient but routine-sounding on the first side, things start heating up on the flip (“The Brain That Refused to Die,” “When I Go to the Beach,” “Jailbait Janet,” “This Party Sucks,” etc.), which kicks out the jams with fierce dispatch. Kane then left the group.
His next outfit, Date Bait, takes two steps from the Slickee Boys’ grinning groove, spiking its punch with sparring wah-wahs and snaky leads, emerging as a punkier and more angular purveyor of the same ’60s clichés. While unquestionably heartfelt and occasionally compelling, the overall impression is that of a band nurtured on the Cramps’ lesser material flirting goodnaturedly with the trendily popular proto-metal of ’70 Detroit. Covers: Troggs, Gary Glitter, Dictators, Stooges…