The Chrome Cranks - "Rubber Rat" (Ain't No Lies in Blood)
“Rubber rat! How about that? Yeah, I’m back! Girl, you’re going to like it!” shouts Peter Aaron on the second track of Ain’t No Lies in Blood. Now there’s a statement of purpose. There hasn’t been any new trash from the Chrome Cranks since 1997. The extensive notes Aaron wrote for the 2007 compilation, Diabolical Boogie, bore the tone of someone who’d put the past in its place. He was reflecting on his own history, since no one else seemed like they were going to do it for him. So a reanimated Cranks comes as a surprise, and it’s more surprising still they they’ve instantly created songs that are among their best work.
“Rubber Rat” is a good example of what the garages of the world have failed to produce in their absence: a basic blues that’s equal parts silly and convincing. It’s got a traditional swing, but the fuzz is thick and the stop-starts are ridiculously enough to move it away from the roots. But like The Cramps and Devo, fellow Ohio-bred bands, there’s something very authentic about their artifice.
A good amount of territory gets covered, given that they’re committed to familiar, if oily, rock ideas. Guitarist William Weber rarely elaborates the lick that starts a song, but he shakes all sort of different tones out of those repetitive licks, from slack acoustic slides to colossal lurching that would make Michael Gira proud (Gira is a long time fan, and did the cover art). Likewise, Bob Bert sticks to no-frills beats. But to paraphrase Dolly Parton, it takes skill to sound this cheap. The drama comes from how they hold those two chords to the two beats. Even a track like “Let it Ring,” which seems undercooked at first, comes to life when they loosen their grip on the beat and make way for Aaron’s punches and punchlines.
Deep in their swamp explorations, Chrome Cranks unearth the thick layer of hokum in a late Byrds song: “drank the blood from a rusty can / cooked the bat in the gumbo pan... I’m a lover of the bayou!” Aaron puts a yodel on the last syllable in “bayou” that shakes up the melancholy of the original. He’s acknowledging the pretense of ’70s rock (the song was written for an aborted attempt at a country-rock musical). I mean, you gotta make gumbo in a pot, right? Roger McGuinn was probably thinking of jambalaya, but what rhymes with that? The Cranks roll with it so gleefully, there’s no reason to resist. They pound on the song for 10 minutes, and it ain’t overblown. They’re blowing out whatever the last decade has dealt them.