Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band: Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band

AND WELCOME back the Bosstown Sound! That’s Boston USA, spelled B-O-S-S-T-O-W-N, home of the J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, The Modern Lovers (sort of) and now…Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band.

I’m told by those more conversant with the ramificaions of the Massachusetts rock scene that Ooor Wullie was on the Live At The Rat album, and has also made a few singles for a local Bosstown label. Never mind that: the issue at hand is WILLIE’S BIG CHANCE — a major label album produced by Craig Leon, the man who (sigh) produced The First Ramones Album!

Willie Alexander And The Boom Boom Band is the shortest musical distance between a series of seemingly incompatible musical styles, and when you start joining up the dots you get a rather alarming picture.

On one level there’s an affinity with some of the artists who form what might loosely be termed white R&B new wave (when in doubt, invent a semi-spurious category — it’s fun!) including such worthies as Mink De Ville, Bruce Springsteen, Graham Parker, Southside Johnny etc.

On another he comes on with slow, mock-grandiose farragos of clanking piano and squealingly curdled lead guitar along the lines of immediately post-“Dudes” Mott or Procol Harum in one of then more energetic moods. Alexander’s vocals oscillate between the ironic, stylised feel of crisply mannered singers like David Bowie and Lou Reed and the anguished directness of a Springsteen, Parker or De Ville, with the added variant of a sort of Jonathan Richman zaniness.

Weird enough for you? How’s about him opening up with a version of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” which completely shelves the Spector blueprint? How about the whole album is dedicated to “Jack Kerouac of Lowell, Mass.”? Now is he weird enough for you?

You might as well meet the band at this point. Willie himself plays simple-verging-on-simplistic piano and sings. He looks like a cross between Doug Sahm and David Warner, sings like…we’ve already done that bit. Onwards.

On guitar there’s Billy Loosigian. He thinks he’s Mick Ronson, favours overly muddy textures (a sort of 1968 Eric Clapton/Les Paul/Marshall sound) and plays far too many solos that are far too long. He looks like he’s in a teenybop/punk crossover band.

The bass player’s name is Severin Grossman. He looks Puerto Rican but is probably Jewish. Since Willie has two first names, it seems only appropriate that another member of the band should have two surnames.

Finally, drummer David McLean looks about fourteen. He could have escaped from the Bay City Rollers (or Generation X) except that he plays too good.

Apart from that monumentally bizarre remake/remodel of ‘Lovin’ Feelin” — best bit is Willie doing a real P. J. Proby lump-in-the-throat groan of “I can’t — no, I can’t g-go on!!!” and then following it with a berserk scream of “Gimme a break!!!!” — the numbers are all originals, credited variously to ‘Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band” and to Willie himself. The best of the bunch are ‘Look At Me’ with its dinosaur-swamp Heavy Metal textures, bounce at cool, self-mocking vocal, the hilarious mock-epic ‘You Beat Me To It’ and the acerbic ‘Looking Like A Bimbo’, which rhymes “rock and roll drag” with “counterfeit fag.” You could guess the rest, but you’d be wrong.

Bland it ain’t. Lurching between the dreadful, the brilliant, the acute and the obtuse, Willie Alexander And The Boom Boom Band is not an album that people will find it easy to remain indifferent towards. It’s such an odd mixture of stylistic devices that you could well find yourself applauding and booing simultaneously.

All in all, it’s — um — interesting. I think I’ll get to like it if I can bear to listen to it a few more tunes.

© Charles Shaar MurrayNew Musical Express, 21 January 1978

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