Teenage Head(s)

  • Teenage Head(s)
  • Teenage Head (Can. IGM) 1979  (Can. Other Peoples Music/Goon Island) 1981  (Can. Other Peoples Music) 1996 
  • Frantic City (Can. Attic) 1980 
  • Some Kinda Fun (Can. Attic) 1982 
  • Tornado EP (MCA) 1983 
  • Endless Party (Can. Ready) 1984 
  • Trouble in the Jungle (Can. Warpt) 1986 
  • Electric Guitar (Can. Fringe Product) 1988 

Fronted by singer Frankie Venom, this hard-rockin’ quartet from Hamilton, Ontario owes more than its name to the Flamin Groovies — the records are full of non-stop crazed rock’n’roll songs about cars, parties, girls, booze and general wanton fun, all imbued with the original Groovies’ unreconstructed spirit. With nods to Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and other pioneers, Teenage Head races along, Gordie Lewis’ guitar blazing, through numbers like “Ain’t Got No Sense” and “Kissin’ the Carpet” (both on Teenage Head, which was remixed and reissued, the second time with five bonus tracks from the late ’70s), “Disgusteen” (Frantic City) and “Teenage Beer Drinking Party” (Some Kinda Fun). If they were smarter and more sarcastic, T. Head might have more in common with the old Dictators; as it stands, their sound, while hardly original, is perfect for parties held in gymnasiums. The first three records aren’t hip, but they are solid, sweaty and convincingly salacious.

Given a pluralizing, name-sanitizing “s,” the group lowered its hysteria level on the six-song Tornado, an ill-advised stab at maturity and commercial hard-rock acceptability. Snore. Endless Party is a live greatest-hits rundown recorded on New Year’s Eve 1983.

Fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Safely removed from the Lower 50’s crass influence, the Canadians reclaimed both theit spelling and sense of fun on the nifty Trouble in the Jungle. Covering Bobby Fuller (badly), Eddie Cochran (weirdly) and Elvis Presley (very well) amid a variety of equally gonzo originals, the band shifts gears easily from lightly played rockabilly pop to electric punk — sometimes in the same song.

Electric Guitar has only one non-original, but self-propulsion does nothing to impede the versatile fun. “She Rips My Lips,” “Can’t Stop Shakin'” and “Full-Time Fool” are all vintage-flavor rockers, crisply delivered with chops and spirit; “Your Sister Used to Love Me” makes a cool milkshake of Dave Rave’s relaxed surf vocals and Lewis’ sizzling punk chords; “You’re the One I’m Crazy For” is a spectacular Ramones imitation. Electric Guitar is convincing proof that a neat and clean garage can still rock. (Daniel Lanois plays guitar on two tracks.)

Frankie Venom, whose real name was Frank Kerr, died of throat cancer in October 2008. He was 51.

[Ira Robbins]