This album's a quiet little stunner. If you're familiar with the Makers, then you're well aware that these fellows make trashy, glammy garage rock, with more than a fair share of attitude. They're a band known for antics, and a live set that just steams. Well, that's always been my impression of them--boogie-rock garage hellions set on rocking out, burning up, and making out with your girlfriend.
Then, comes the Strangest Parade, The Makers' aptly-titled seventh album. While the rock vibe is there, it's in a most peculiar place. Where once The Makers tore up, they're now building up, and instead of rock straight out of your garage, they are now making rock straight out of your FM radio, 1974 era. Yup, the innocence is gone, replaced with a most-glammy rock. Garage hooligans grown up, perhaps, or maybe a band that's finally found its sound?
For Strangest Parade, The Makers have slowed down their pace, turned down the lights, and looked into their hearts. I don't know if it's intended, but Strangest Parade seems to be a concept album about death--death of innocence, death of life, death of a dream--the rock and roll dream, perhaps? Just a glance or two at the titles reveal hints traces or hints of a more morbid scene--"An Eternal Climb," "Heaven and Hurricane," "Addicted to Dying," "Suicide Blues" are but a few of the questionable titles. In particular, "Suicide Blues," with its heavenly choir chorus, helps give us folk a glimpse of Rock and Roll Heaven.
While I can't say for sure, I seem to get a whiff or two of Rock and Roll Suicide. Though there are times that The Makers seem to let their Bowie/glam roots be seen, there's something rather original in this tribute to the great rock days of yore. "Calling Elvis, John, and Jesus" is a heartfelt tribute to not only the great public idols, but also a tribute to Rock and Roll. Throw in the most-powerful song I've heard in a while, "Addicted to Dying," with some of the most Bowie moments I've heard since I last heard Ziggy Stardust, and you feel like you're in the presence of the Thin White Duke, circa 1972.
Kudos are also in order for producer Kurt Bloch. The use of segueways through most of the album really help mold the album into one cohesive whole, making me feel like I'm listening to some sort of symphonic moment or rock orchestra. He also managed to capture both the intensity of the band's wild, intense live show, a most rare feat, and he's also brought out a more sensitive, heartfelt side to the band. My favorite part of Strangest Parade would have to be the closing "Wide Wide World of Girls." It's an acoustic ballad from a live show, with applause and a hollow sound. It's lovely, sad, and longing--and a perfect closer to the show. The way it's mixed in with "Suicide Blues," it also helps you feel like you've been listening to a live show as well.
Dirty, greasy, smelly, sexy, and sincere--Strangest Parade is all of these and more. This is a most surprisingly lovely album from a band who have kept the Rock beast alive and kicking. A perfect mixing of melody and hedonism from a band who want nothing more than to mix their melody with their hedonistic tendencies. God bless 'em.