By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
“Great Big Amp” stemmed from a TV interview with a hair-band vet reminiscing about how he “‘had it all, we had the lights, we had the chicks, we had the great big amps,’ and I thought, How precious that this was the mark of his success. The idea started germinating, you know, What does that say about me? Believe me, I‘ve had to take a look at how sick I am. What is it that makes a guy go through this, to stand in front of a thousand people and demand that they love me? Pretty sick. Something in me says I need that.”
The album contains collaborations with Swedish rockers the Hellacopters, singer Syd Straw and saxophonist Mars Williams of Liquid Soul. With Williams, Kramer performs the most “out” cut, “Nelson Algren Stopped By,” a spoken-word fantasy in which the late famed author from Chicago makes a ghostly visit. The track begins with a Peter Gunn--like riff and builds into a free-jazz wail; it’s Elmer Bernstein meets Coltrane, and a reminder that avant-garde jazz was a huge influence on Kramer and the MC5.
There‘s also “Sundays in Saigon,” a look at postwar Vietnam through a “Desolation Row” lens, and “Love Fidel,” a gorgeous love song based on a pre-Revolution clandestine romance of Castro. “The Red Arrow” is a tribute to jazz trumpeter and Charlie Parker sideman Red Rodney, with whom Kramer was in the joint. He avoids the obvious tack of writing a pure jazz track, opting instead for a hard rocker with rapid-fire guitar breaks that serve as homage to the bebop pioneer in spirit. Two nephews of Rodney recently came to see Kramer play in New Jersey. Coincidentally, they were MC5 fans and didn’t know of the familial connection until they read an interview on the Web.
Kramer‘s fleet-fingered solos are a rarity. He’s still the king of less-is-more rock guitar, though he can wipe out any showboater if he chooses. “The great soloists are creating music with certain tools. As time goes on, I‘ve become more and more in love with melody. If I play one note, what’s the next note that‘s gonna lead me to a melody, that’s gonna say something, that‘s gonna have a complete feeling to it?”
Adult World is Kramer’s first album in which he wrote all of the lyrics himself, and his literary chops have developed considerably. He‘s honed the writer’s trick of telling parts of a story yet leaving enough mystery to draw the listener in. He‘s brutally honest about his own shortcomings and the endless -- sometimes blind -- grope through life we all experience attempting to dodge curve balls and survive bad choices.
“Chances are, others have these feelings too, so if I can be honest about who I am and put it in a song that appeals to people, then I’ve fulfilled my mandate as an artist. Then I‘ve done what great art has always done for me, which is tell me that I’m not alone.”
Wayne Kramer plays at the Baked Potato, Studio City, every Tuesday in October.