GO DOWN RECORDS
The Heart and Soul of Italy’s Rock and Roll
by Todd K Smith
In the north east of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna coast Leo Cola works in his Panini shop in the resort town of Cesenatico. A family business has him spending long hours in the Mediterranean heat during the summer months. But as the cool air of autumn descends and the myriad of tourists leave the area, Cola closes up shop for the winter to focus on his true love, rock and roll. An extension of his passion and personal taste, Cola started Go Down Records as a fledgling label in 2005. It has since become a solid industry leader and a prime mover for Italian artist. His roster ranges from ‘50s and ‘60s garage rock to stoner and psychedilia to high-energy rock and roll. It was the powerhouse local band Small Jackets, a blizzard of classic rock (Montrose meets The Stones) with catchy hooks that provided the foundation for the Go Down corporation. They were the first band signed to the label and had the right sound they wanted to build on.
The label ‘s next release was the female-fronted Not Moving, They reflected a spark of CBGB’s punk like the Gun Club, Cramps and X as well as classics 13th Floor Elevator and The Seeds. The band stormed Europe in the 80’s with hits like “Catman” and “Psycho Ghoul” and even supported The Clash and Johnny Thunders. Go Down released the band’s first ever retrospective and titled it Live In The 80’s. Two highlights came from the label in 2006, the stoner rockers OJM Under The Thunder and the revved-up Fuel From Hell Fill You Up With Five Star Gasoline (both reviewed below). It also saw the second Small Jackets release Walking The Boogie featuring Nicke Andersson from Sweden’s Hellacopters. The label diversified with the dirty stoner sounds of Underdogs, the bone-crushing noise of fuckVegas, and acid-death valley-psych-country of Grand Sound Heroes. It also launched brilliant new comers Re Dinamite, Gorilla and Los Fuocos with the addition of a classic compilation Wild Sounds from the Past Dimension. By 2007 nearly a dozen bands were actively working with Go Down.
Dome La Muerte (of Not Moving) and the Diggers delivered a slamming garage rock punch to kick off 2008 as did Les Bondage and Electric 69, a band we crowned the kings of Motor City guitar. A second compilation AA.VV. The Heavy Psych Italian Sounds introduced the world to Italy’s true musical underground. The label negotiated the deal and landed California legends The Morlocks first record (Easy Listening For The Underachiever) of original material since 1986 and re-released their 1984 EP classic Emerge. The label continued to experiment with unique soundscapes like the groovy-prog-grundge of Pater Nembrot, the gypsy psycho-desert rock of Muffx, and slightly bizarre trippy fuzz of Maya Mountains. This year unleashed the roar of The Barbacans God Save The Fuzz, a split 12’ with Vic du Monte's Persona Non Grata / Re Dinamite and the essential third Small Jackets release Cheap Tequila.
Below are six reviews showcasing the diversity and excitement packed into a sampling of Go Down Records’ unique, eclectic and exhilarating artists. Do yourself a favor and take the time to check out this label and their bands. You will not be disappointed!
DOME LA MUERTE and THE DIGGERS
One listen to the garage-drenched punk classic “Get Ready” from this four-piece wild bunch will send sonic flashes of Detroit dust into your cerebral cortex with supercharged electricity. Led by Dome la Muerte (guitar/vox) and joined by raven beauty Lady Casanova (bass), second guitarist Basette and drummer Emiliano, the quartet mix a pub rock cocktail with equal parts Quireboys, Rolling Stones and Hellacopters. The guitars are nice and loud as is the piano (courtesy of Maria Severine) with the rhythm section understated yet viscerally forceful. “Gimme Some” is an essential dirty rock and roller with la Muerte and Basette in a six-string tango. The harmonica from guest Rudi Protrudi of the Fuzztones bleeds through on “Blue Stranger Dancer” like an old Johnny Cash 78 with the Detroit Wheels backing. It kinda goes hand-and-hand with Texas-wrangling “Bad Trip Blues” which dances on the edge of rockabilly. Dome’s voice echoes Taime Downe of Faster Pussycat but with a more soulful delivery. His duet (of sorts) with Casanova on “Demons” is sensational. A couple covers sneak into the set including The Gun Club’s “Fire of Love”, a blistering version of The Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul” and John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” (from Plastic Ono Band). The real meat is in the self-composed breakout single “Sorry, I’m A Digger” and the guitar-fest that is “You Shine On Me” both with a heavy Stones-influence.
Los Fuocos hail from Milan and claim Kiss, MC5 and the mighty Hellacopters as primary influences. What we get on Revolution is big riffs, punchy melodies and a thumping backbeat big enough to shake the walls. There’s no place to hide in this three-piece so guitarist Pado, bassist Den and drummer Corbe use the collision of their primal forces to orchestrate a sound that’s both hip-shaking and head banging. The disc opens with “Suzanne,” a high-energy rocker that firmly puts the band in line as the next generation of snarling garage punkers. The guitar is fast and furious while the bass and drum are front and center. Pado’s voice snarls and bites…and sounds a lot like Nicke Andersson from the ‘ellacptoers, hence the oft repeated comparison. The records eleven tracks keep a brisk tempo with “Revolution,” “Danny The Mind” and “Sometimes Better Lose The Fight” leading the charge. Personal favorite is the bass driven “Great Raid Dreaming” due to its catchy hook and clever phrasing. They even take on the mighty Beatles’ “Day Tripper” with a rip, snorting angst that becomes their own three and a half minute dose of pop. “The Rock Empire” features Small Jacket’s singer Lu Silver for a nicely executed side-winding guitar fest that pulls together a chanting chorus and makes the most out of the cowbell. As the last minutes fade we get a soulful fragile melody, raw and reflective.
WILD SOUND FROM THE PAST DIMENSION
Wild Sound From The Past Dimension is a 23-track liberating package of cover songs reflecting the rowdy and oftentimes primitive sound of the late 60s/early 70s. Most artists featured here come from the Go Down stable, while others add their contributions in the spirit of celebration. Similar to what Gearhead Records has done in the states, this energetic compilation is constructed to not only expose the bands to a larger audience but show a unique side that each have in common. If you’re looking for mainstream song titles or well known covers, this goes much deeper than that - think Nuggets back catalog and regional genre pioneers for a clearer vision. Mixing surf, jazz, textured R&B and electric blues with plenty of dirty garage elements all wrapped into a semi-pop texture and that what’s going on here. There is The Faraon’s covering The Nocturnes “Baha-Ree-Ba!”, Ray Daytona and Googoobombos attacking The Continentals “Sick and Tired,” and The Chronics doing “All Kinda Girls” originally by the Real Kids.
Amongst the eclectic are the better-known Kinks, “I Need You” by Ravenna’s The Cavemen, David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” by Los Bondage and Sardinia’s The Rippers covering The Sorrows’ “Let Me In.” We won’t give away all the surprises here to uncover but a few highlights including songs penned by Iggy & The Stooges, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Motörhead. Our personal favorites start with Elvis Presley’s “Kissin’ Cousins” done by European legends Not Moving. The track is a raucous, primitive recording that hangs on the original hook, yet keeps one foot in CBGB punk with another in rehearsal looseness. The same band, lead by Dome La Muerte, takes on Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” with a noted country surf swagger sounding bizarre with an edge of cool. The Small jackets do a rocked up version of the Small Faces “Tin Soldier” that would certainly delight Steve Marriott. Los Fuocos does equal justice to the MC5’s ”Sister Ann” as does Sator (featuring The Bones) with The Arrows “Touch Too Much.” The Valentines, Italy’s most original and influential punk bands totally rip into the Cramps “Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?” with some of the best guitar slashing on the disc.
Under The Thunder
Under The Thunder is the dynamic fourth release from this Treviso-based four-piece. Produced by MC5 bassist Michael Davis, the band has fully embraced elements of Blue Cheer and brisk-paced Black Sabbath with the pop undertones of Grand Funk Railroad. Led by the charismatic talent of vocalist David Martin the band fuse the intensity of punk/metal with high-octane rock and roll. Distorted and in full overdrive we get racks like “Lonelyness.” a cavalcade of whiplash guitars and chugging backbeat. Guitarist’s Alex Germany captures the textures of the 60’s in the riotous “I’m Not An American” and easily follows the drumming of Max Ear into the wasted “Stoned Love.” The heavy-handed instrumental “Everything Can Be Magic” is compressed into a lethal powder keg that spills into “Sixties” and its burning chant of “rock n’ roll.” Bassist Andrew Pozzy’s command performance comes smack dab into the middle of the song, right before Martin goes for his best Robert Plant. The bass continues to drive the bombastic “Dirty Nights,” with its cocktail of wailing guitar and thunderous beat. The second half of the record keeps it’s center in garage hard rock that ties together the pounding “Starshine,” the 60s-styled “Give Me Your Money” and the staccato “Spread Me”. Straight up rocker “M.C.I.” is pure testosterone overload. The four close the record in a fitting tribute to ex-Fu Manchu legend Brant Bjork in the stoned out seven-minute desert rumbler appropriately titled, “Brant B”.
God Save The Fuzz
Formed in 2006, The Barbacans dedicate themselves to a full on 60’s garage revival. God Save The Fuzz, recorded at the famous Circo Perrotti studio in Gijon, Spain, is the group’s debut record. Having supported several “big name” bands including the legendary Seeds and 60’s retro outfit The Morlocks puts the group at the forefront of retro-crossovers and aligns them with Finland’s Sweatmaster and Slideshaker. Their addictive garage fuzz, aggressive use of Farfisa (electric organ) and hip shakin’ swagger have made them festival favorites. The stable line up of Joe Carnarelli (voice and Farfisa), Il Sindaco (drums), Walker (guitar) and Purple Guescio (bass) create a buzz that is rebellious, ethereal and threatening. The stuttering organ launches “Kick The Children” and when joined by the echoed guitar becomes positively haunting. The bass-induced “White Mask” conjures up black and white biker chick movies while the drum-laden “What’s Fantastic” turns into a punk pop frenzy with a hollow body rhythm and a slicing guitar riff. Head bopping “No Friends Around” and “Walking On Newspapers” are crisp nuggets that worship all things Kinks including a host of Dave Davies-like licks. “Mad Mike” picks up more of a surf vibe but “We Have The Right Sound” is the perfect, all encompassing tribute to the band’s declared direction. The disc comes with the bands first video “Phantom Opera”.
FUEL FROM HELL
Fill You Up With Five Star Gasoline
High-energy rock and roll spills outta the case on the Fuel For Hell’s debut record. Fine-tuning their craft of loud, obnoxious rawk, the whiskey-soaked five-piece worship at the alter of Mötley Crüe, GNR and Skid Row. Hell, they’ve even played with LA Guns and been featured on a Mötley Crüe tribute “Too Fast For Love” and compilation series Riot On Sunset Vol 18. The five-piece kick the disc off with “Manhattan Showtime 1978” with a disco beat and Wild Cherry riff before igniting into a twin-guitar attack that’s straight from 1988. “Vampira (Call of the Wild)” could easily have come from Faster Pussycat’s ’87 debut. It’s already been pulled for a Paris compilation Hollywood Hairspary Vol 6. “Get It Back” is straight from Lock and Key-era Dokken complete with George Lynch-style squeal. It’s after the first three songs the disc dramatically shifts to post millennium Scandinavian rock, “Heartbreaker,” “Hard Times (In The Badlands)” and “Love Injection” are juiced on Nashville Pussy and AC/DC with a country twang. Hard core chuggers “Lose Control For..” and “Ain’t Nobody” are so furious they must shatter drum sticks in the live set. Yet, it’s “She’s Like A Drug” that douses the disc with gasoline and sets it on fire. Just as it started “Breakdown” ends with a disco beat and Faith No More riff that spins into the sleaziest ripper you’re gonna hear this year.
A special thanks to Leonardo Cola, an inspiration and friend.
Website: Go Down Records