By JOHN LAYCOCK
A freak, in 1970 terms, was collective and concerted crazy. An either-or
thing: Either you're for us or again us. And when that polite, good-looking kid
next door suddenly freaked out with bushels of hair, strange-smelling
cigarettes and music loud enough to maim, why, the whole neighborhood
shuddered in bewilderment.
Max Webster are like that - four boys-next-door, maybe a little wild you know,
but nice kids. Right here in Windsor, too - Mike Tilka was a fixture on bass
around this city for awhile, and the band has played here occasionally. Not
common people, you understand, but not . . . well, weird.
Their music is weird, though. Genuinely freaky. A slap in John Denver's face.
Max Webster, their first album (on Taurus-London), is freaky music to astonish
I don't mean outrageous, exactly, though it is challenging. Their tongues are
stuck too firmly in their cheeks to really annoy. But the dissonance, the
noise, the oddity and obscurity, certainly can perplex. We need Frank Zappa as
It's a strange feeling to hear the yowls of Hangover and know you've joined
your buddies in the band in that particular rite of atonement (and in the
rituals leading thereto).
Toronto, their hometown, and a city with some self-conception of itself as
freaky, gives them plenty of support. "In Canadian terms," says Tilka's press
release, "We have proved that a commercial band need not be limited to a
repertoire of boogie tunes." That's for sure. Nothing on the album will be
played in discos.
They are, though, as businesslike as that statement implies. They work well
together, too, with the flash soloists - Kim Mitchell, lightning guitarist,
and Paul Kersey, imaginative drummer - never upsetting the unit. Lots of
ingenuity, but a problem: They don't sing so hot. Talking the songs, like
Zappa, is part of the solution. But the vocal part of their identity hasn't
Blowing the Blues Away is a light enough little song that some radio stations
can play; Here Among the Cats is their popular thudder. Some of the other
stuff on the album is more brash than substantial, but it's a carefully
established debut, including the three-eyed heads in the cover painting by
Terry Watkinson, who didn't learn to draw like that when he played the bars
with the Yeomen years ago.
Crazy? Like a fox, maybe.