An interesting one-time-only band, New Race was proof that good music can occur when "teachers" and "students" get together. In this instance, the "teachers" were ex-Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton and ex-MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson, (Machinegun Thompson has a new blog Http://machinegunthompson.com go see all the news) who joined forces with "students" Deniz Tek, Rob Younger, and Warwick Gilbert, the latter three members of the seminal Australian punk band Radio Birdman. Tek was a Michigan native who'd emigrated to Australia in the early '70s, bringing his love of high-energy Detroit proto-punk with him. After Birdman's demise, he contacted Asheton and Thompson to come to Australia and form this ad-hoc touring outfit. New Race toured Australia once in 1981, playing mostly small halls and releasing one legit live LP and a few lo-fi bootlegs. While the resulting record, The First and the Last, benefits from a significant amount of in-studio sweetening (all vocals redone as Rob Younger wasn't happy with his live vocals, which also meant losing Deniz Tek's backing vocals to his displeasure) , it's still an exciting, guitar-fueled rave-up. Fans of the early-'70s Motor City sound or early Aussie punk wouldn't want to be without it.
This album earned credibility for documenting a unique, one-off event. In 1981, ex-Radio Birdman bassist Warwick Gilbert, guitarist Deniz Tek, and vocalist Rob Younger saluted their influences by joining the Stooges' lead guitarist Ron Asheton and MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson for a six-week blitzkrieg of Australia. The notion made sense, since Radio Birdman had been acclaimed on their Australian home turf, yet relegated to cult fodder elsewhere, while he $MC5 and the Stooges had never been commercial propositions, either. Still, once listeners pass the "punk summit" angle used in promoting the album, they'll find the fruits of this alliance impressive enough to warrant further exploration. Not surprisingly, there's strangled, slash-and-burn guitar playing aplenty on burners like "November 22, 1963," a conspiratorial recall of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. This track, by Asheton's major post-Stooges outlet, Destroy All Monsters, would undoubtedly win filmmaker Oliver Stone's approval. Tek's "Descent Into the Maelstrom" and "Haunted Road" open similar forays into the fretboard jungle, while the Gilbert-Thompson axis never lets up, especially on the drummer's MC5 standard, "Gotta Keep Movin'." As these choices show, the set draws evenly from across the board, with "Looking at You" and an understated "Loose" nodding again, respectively, to the MC5 and the Stooges. Tek's moodier songs, "Breaks My Heart" and "Sad TV," inject variety into the proceedings, while time constraints only permitted one new song to emerge: "Columbia," whose propulsive riff and atypical space travel theme closes the album on a powerful, decisive note. Strategically overdubbed backing vocals and guitar on three songs, as well as piano on "Descent Into the Maelstrom," does nothing to blunt this album's appeal, which offers historical value from a one-off event that never occurred again. Tek's terse yet engaging liner notes aptly sum up the exercise: "Humor beats bitterness every time." It's hard to disagree when the evidence is this powerful.
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