TED NUGENT - Shutup&Jam!
July 1, 2014, a year ago
Had reservations that the life-improving last two Whackmasters, Craveman and Love Grenade, two of Uncle Ted’s best ever—heavy as a sledge, and explosively played by the team—mighta been a glory-bound book-ended fluke, given how much Ted seems to erroneously admire Spirit Of The Wild, still. Ergo, I woulda been happy with another heavy metal sizzle-steak like that dastardly duo. Ted, however, had other plans—or lack thereof more pointedly—and the rock ‘n’ rollsy soulful bloodbrother with 53 years experience... he’s actually turned out arguably the mostly joyfully rocking record of his entire catalogue, fantastically in a whole ‘nother direction. It’s Weekend Warriors or Cat Scratch Fever made greasy. It’s the follow-up to State Of Shock, arguably the very best Ted record (if dragged without question to the past by best bud Monte Conner). It’s every song brisk and firecracker-up-the-butt-heavy, but with an endearing connection to (Seger/SRC/Rivieras) rock ‘n’ roll, southern rock, the ‘70s. It’s a Call Of The Wild back cover backstrap banquet of Ted’s best (and most) soloing ever. It’s frightful vocals from the man (fuelled by coffee and painkillers from his double knee replacement). It’s no ballads and no overtly jokey tunes, other than perhaps the previously disseminated tho grinding I Love My BBQ. The front cover is a (hasty, not great) homage to Free For All, but again, past that, I’m hearing the mug, sweat and beers of State Of Shock’s deep tracks, “Snake Charmer,” “Saddle Sore,” “Take It Or Leave It” and “Bite Down Hard.” Derek sings a paltry one song, “Everything Matters,” and it’s like a heavy “Hey Baby,” but as metaphor for the smarts and effortless experience therein, please hear that tricky chorus. The title track is Black Oak Arkansas of nature-boy and shindig joie de vivre. “Throttledown” is fiery licks so overpowering that Ted had to relegate and resign this bottle-rocket to instrumental status. “Screaming Eagles,” the best marriage of boogie rock power left of Status Quo and the Detroit Wheels, with a little “Sweet Sally” to boot. “Do-Rags & A .45,” killer Tedly metal down a “Gonzo” pathway. “Semper Fi” is a surging Hendrix-like tour de force with Ted growling like Tom Waits. Back to arching generalities for a second, brilliantly, Shutup&Jam;! pulls back on the fuzz pedal and the stadium rock of Ted’s twinned two predecessors, but is close to as heavy as those, maybe faster, certainly more organic, and more jammy—without a direct laborious compare, I’d say there are more white-hot licks per square inch here than on any Ted record, and all propelled from below by a phalanx of three drummers, Mick ceding most of his territory, accompanied by Greg Smith on bass fer miles, who I suspect is more a part of the magic than we’ll ever know. Sammy Hagar, sender of tequila, sings on a historically reverent hard rocker called “She’s Gone” (A/B with Don Nix “Going Down”). Back up a sec, sure, one might question having Derek back in the band and only singing one, but fact is, Ted’s singing better than ever at 65, and frankly, the Derek file is now more confusing to people than it was in ’75 through ’78—I say Derek sings three or he sings none. Another sylvan lining: Ted works the boys in with a satisfied smear of backing vocals, another nice appointment, some or none of which is—all of the above somewhat, according to my recent talk with Ted—attributable to the annexation of Brownsville’s Mike Lutz as history-rich producer. The only pock on the place, there’s a mellow version of melodic power pop/Damn Yankees-style rocker “Never Stop Believing” at the end, mis-sold as a blues, and actually a waltz. I take it as a bit of a bonus track, stacked on an unassailable salt-lick of 12 rockers that find Ted improbably more alive and blood-coursed than he was on the last two firestorms (please go revisit “Still Raising Hell,” “Stand” and “Change My Sex”—all heavier than the sum total of this record, but in light of... almost too perfect). As much as Craveman and Love Grenade were the actualization of what every angry Tedly follower would have wanted after staring at him stuck 20 years in a barren wilderness (a bit like Scorpions with no clue), Shutup&Jam;! is actually a record deeper into the DNA of the Ted a select cadre of us loved and sent gold—not platinum. In other words, it’s not reflective of Ted at his commercial peak. Nor, pointedly, is it particularly wrapped up in the Ted of his youth and The Lourdes and the Amboys—the Ted that Ted loves. Nae, Shutup&Jam;! burns like the Ted that Record Review and Kerrang! loved, namely the proto-metal rocker running on fevered and furious fumes after losing his magic band from ’78 to ’81, the white-knuckled Ted of failing marriage and finance, the Ted rising above because rock is all he’s got, like the Sabbath of Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die, and the Aerosmith of Draw The Line and Night In The Ruts.