All over America, for practically a generation now, young musicians have formed bands to worship at the alter of the almighty Stooges. In Sixty-Nine Tribe, Nashville was lucky enough to land one of the best such outfits, one that laid its music confidently on the bedrock established by Iggy Pop, the Ashton brothers and James Williamson many years before – but they could not by any means be called imitators. Vocalist John Sheridan and guitarist Price Harrison, the core of the Tribe, have reportedly made a number of recordings in recent years, but so far the seven-song Last Supper Relief and a 12” single, “Bikers,” remain the only releases by this tremendously exciting band.
A thin, blond man with a seemingly perpetual smirk, Sheridan yowls in an Iggy-ish style, and quite well too, but with a certain detachment that makes his songs simply drip irony. (His stage manner cemented this for me – I remember his motions as minimal, almost minimalist, as if he were really too cool to bother.) The songs cover a variety of topics, from the sad plight of tourists driving around endlessly trying to find the “Upper Room” to the strange and confusing conflation of motorcycles and menstrual cycles in “Cycle Girls.” On one track Sheridan turns Rufus Thomas’ “Do the Dog” from a harmless dance number into something vaguely but palpably dangerous.
The music, driven by Harrison’s slash-and-burn guitar, is a magnificent testosterone buzz. Powered by a monstrously heavy riff that sticks in your head for days, “Cycle Girls” is the high point, but each song has its own particular way of getting in your face and making you like it. This isn’t metal, with its inevitable wankery and puffery; Harrison’s work is a marvel of economy and taste, and no sounds are wasted. As Lester Bangs once said of The Stooges’ masterpiece, Fun House, “no sore thumbs stick out.” There’s a certain strange austerity about the record, and the songs all sound quite different – no negligible achievement for an “alternative” band! Pete Wilson