I’m going to start phase 2 of this blog talking about something that combines many parts of who I am. Anyone who’s been around me for the past couple weeks has heard me do nothing but rave about the Gizmos. They tout themselves as the first punk rock group from Bloomington, Indiana, forming in 1976 and doing their thing until 1981. I’m not entirely sure what it is about their music that makes me weak in the knees, but it sure does.
It starts with their logo, a simple curved block script with the “z” exploding into its own thing. It might be that their from the midwest, the place that will always be home for me even if I live elsewhere. But my love of them basically boils down to the purity of their music. I’m generally not one to talk about musical purity; I’m all for bastardized, mongoloid musical mutts, but when it comes to the Gizmos they take purity to such a degree that you can’t help but take note. The songs all feature fairly basic rock guitar licks that show a heavy surf influence, surprising considering that the nearest ocean is about a thousand miles from Bloomington. Adding to this is that they really only use clean guitar tones (with some mild distortion every now and then); the lack of heavy distortion makes the songs float gently into your welcoming ears. What strikes me the most about the music, though, is the forthrightness of the lyrics. Yeah, they use a lot of the 50s “shoo-bee-do-whop” type thing in choruses, but the verses all have a kind of naïve honesty to them. Whether they’re being honest to a girl (in “Cry Real Tears”), wanting to become famous (“Dead Astronaut”), mourning because the girl they like is a lesbian (“Melinda is a Lesbian”), just missing home (“The Midwest Can be Allright”), they always talk in simple and forward terms which is totally irresistible. They only have a few different distinct songs, but that’s ok; Johnny Thunders, Nikki Sudden, Jonathan Richman and others of their ilk (and I consider the Gizmos to be of their ilk) from that period were about the same.
All of their releases have come out on the generally fantastic Gulcher
record label. In their Bloomington period, the Gizmos recorded 6 proper EPs, all of which are fairly jokey with songs like “Muff Diving,” “Amerika First,” “Human Garbage Disposal,” and “Progressive Rock.” In 1980 or so the group moved to New York where they recorded a bunch of demos that show their songwriting at its peak, simultaneously simple and complex. There are three pretty fantastic CD comps of their stuff which Gulcher put out over the past few years that have just about everything they ever did: 1976/77 The Studio Recordings
, 1978-81: Never Mind the Gizmos Here’s the Gizmos
, and Rock and Roll Don’t Come from New York
. I would call them all pretty much essential, if you’re a punk rock fan. That and the amazing Gulcher sampler, Red Snerts - but good like finding the LP, which is crazy hard to find, although Gulcher did reissue it on CD.