Try as time might to diminish this filthy city's hot brat-beat heritage, there's never a shortage of dormant talent lurking deep within the twisting corridors of our rock and roll maze of myth and history. While squandered legacies and the yoke of mediocrity befall so many once promising players, the return from oblivion by '65-era Sunset Strip teen thrillers the Sloths rates as big news. Though the band members were only 15-17 when they started off, in their brief run they hit all the critical local go-go's, including Stratford, Sea Witch, the Whisky, and Pandora's Box. They split bills with The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Pink Floyd and The Animals. Though it didn't last, the fact that they have finally gotten back together is nonetheless musically exhilarating.
Broken up by parental demands and the chaos of adolescence in the summer of 1966, the Sloths left behind a single recording “Makin' Love,” b/w “You Mean Everything.” The disc is a brilliantly declarative, horny war cry, one way too hot for the radio. Still, its reissue on Volume 2 of the Crypt records garage comp Back From Grave series slowly but inexorably elevated the Sloths to Nuggets-set primacy; an original pressing now commands more than $6,500.
Two of the original members have passed away, but the rest of the primaries are augmented by able veteran Dave Provost and token thirty-something drummer Jose Rendon. The Sloths are now laying down a relentless tide of defiant, soul-shattering rock & roll truth at clubs throughout the region, and play the Redwood Bar tomorrow, August 25.
The manner in which the group reconstituted seems strangely inevitable. Although original lead guitarist Jeff Briskin was the first to defect in '66 when his parents enrolled him in law school, he was also the one to reignite the group. “He'd left the scene at 18, left it altogether,” lead singer Tommy McLoughlin says. “But he's the one that actually put us back together, he had hired a private detective to track everyone down!” Coinciding with the 2011 Ugly Things reissue of the “Makin' Love” 45 and a tidal swell of kiddie kult interest, this weird confluence of events inevitably lit the way for a newly minted, necessarily retro-fitted Sloths.
Their show at the Redwood will be a point blank double-barreled blast of naked rock & roll. Their live show is a schizophrenic combination of Dusty Springfield-Burt Bacharach pop covers, British Invasion ravers and overstimulated R&B work outs. It mixes professional polish — ax man Michael Rummans never left music, perpetually toughing it out with local combo the Kingbees — with the indefinable intoxicating tang of pimple-poppin' post-pubescent primitivo. The retention of that quality is nothing less than alchemical, especially considering that these cats are all in their early sixties. “We're not gonna roll up in wheel chairs and do this half assed — we're gonna go the full route and knock ourselves out,” McLoughlin says.
Clearly, there is a larger hand at work, and the culture itself is already re-attaching and weaving this new incarnation into the cosmic scheme. “Holly Beth Vincent just gave us this great new song 'Never Enough Girls.'” McLoughlin says. “She'd written it for Joey Ramone and given it to him shortly before he died. His band had even recorded the track and it was ready for the vocal but of course it was never finished. So now we've got it, and it's a perfect song for us. And it represents this whole, very cool punk-garage come-back-around thing, between her, Joey and the Sloths. And it's a great feeling for all of us.”