Wicked Cool Records

As the United States slowly rots into a stinking musical wasteland—a place where MTV, mainstream rap and coked-up, attention starved, no talent pop whores define the tastes of this generation—Steven Van Zandt is fighting tooth and nail to save rock n’ roll in its purest and most beautiful form. Van Zandt, who is a weird, walking, breathing encyclopedia of cool (he played Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, wrote songs for Meatloaf and Nancy Sinatra and played guitar in the E Street Band), has managed to piece together the aptly named New York-based Wicked Cool Records. Since 2006, Wicked Cool has released some of the most important rock n’ roll that you’ve probably never heard of, but should immediately tell all of your friends about and pretend like you’ve been listening to for years. 

For example, there’s The Len Price 3, a UK band that so perfectly combines mod and garage that their music is entirely maddening in the very best kind of way—the way that makes you want to quit your job and just listen to records all day long, every day. Their 2010 release, Pictures, brings bands like Squire, The Lambrettas, and Purple Hearts immediately to mind.  Hell, they might as well be The Who in the mid ‘60s. The song “After You’re Gone” starts off in that same heartbreaking way that “So Sad About Us” does. The title track, “Pictures,” couldn’t be more influenced by The Jam if Paul Weller, king of the mods himself, was singing on it. Throw in some bubblegummy, Teddy Bears/Ronettes, Phil Spector la-la-las, the ferocious rock n’ roll twist of Paul Revere and the Raiders, and you’ve got the record that the Lord God Almighty listens to when he kicks back on his golden throne at the end of the day.

If The Len Price 3 are pulsing through God’s holy headphones, then Satan is twisting and jumping somewhere in his underground mansion while The Stabilisers shake the plaster off the walls. Metal dudes claim that their tunes are the preferred music of The Beast, but I’m sure he’s really melting his scheming grey matter and clomping his hooves listening to the album Wanna do the Wild Plastic Brane Love Thing?. The Stabilisers have the raw riffage of The Datsuns, the speed and lyrical competency of Supergrass and the sheer catchiness and emotion of Ash.

Then, there are Norway’s The Launderettes, a girl group of garage Vikings, relentlessly pillaging and destroying everything in their path. More cleanly produced than The Drags and meaner than The Pipettes, their best-of, Fluff ‘n’ Fold, dropped on Wicked Cool in August 2007 and has been blowing minds since. Vocals akin to those of Ms. Roxy Epoxy (especially on the track “Take Me to the Race”) and wild, fucked-up Farfisa organ solos make for an undeniable party record. The kind of party where—BAM!—everybody has sunglasses on and is gyrating violently.

The list, not to mention the badassery, goes on. Wear a parka and ride a Vespa? Jarvis Humby provides the soundtrack for the party thrown to celebrate a long, successful day spent fighting rockers in Brighton. Just enough Hammond B-3 and northern soul worship to keep all the skins and mods happily dancing. As if that weren’t sufficient, there are The Woggles, who paid their dues putting out records on Estrus, Zontar and Telstar throughout the ’90s and are still churning out songs influenced by John Lee Hooker, The Challengers and The Morlocks. There are The Chesterfield Kings, with the vocal intonations of David Johansen and the cold, greasy, dive-bar feel of George Thorogood. There’s the outrageously fast surf of the Beat Tornados, echoing The Tormentos and Dick Dale. The Maggots sound like a savage mix of The Cramps and The Fleshtones. The Chevelles sound like street-walking cheetahs with hearts full of napalm. Dig?

Apparently, none of that is quite enough for the fine ladies and gentlemen at Wicked Cool. On June 6, the label put out The Breakers’ third full-length, a self-titled little number that the Danish band will be slinging from merch tables in various stadiums as they support Bon Jovi (I know) on their European summer tour. I can’t comprehend how those old phonies (I mean Bon Jovi, of course) can face a crowd that’s just had their eardrums blasted by an actual rock n’ roll band channeling The Kinks and The Rolling Stones. I guess once you’ve lived through so much embarrassment, being musically brutalized in front of thousands is just another drop in the bucket.

Do yourself a favor, turkeyneck, and let your needle slide across a few of these slabs now or else pose hard later. It’s up to you.