March 09, 2004

Album Review

OK, it's 1978, and you're in a rehearsal/recording studio in Berkeley, CA, playing with a semi-famous acid casualty who is working up demos for a new album. You've been learning a bunch of lean, hard-rockin' songs about two-headed dogs, zombies, and bloody hammers, and while the results are dynamic and powerful, it's become increasingly hard to shake the fact that your frontman is more than a little crazy. So when he calls out for the band to play "Teenager in Love," what do you do? Well, you stagger along even if you're not entirely sure of how the song goes, and that in a nutshell is the back story behind Don't Knock the Rok!, which captures the special magic of rehearsing with former 13th Floor Elevators visionary Roky Erickson as he and backing band the Aliens prepped for his album The Evil One. Apparently, Erickson enjoyed indulging in the sonic comfort food of classic oldies, and in between rave-ups on tunes like "Can't Be Brought Down," "Things That Go Bump in the Night," and "You Drive Me Crazy" (no small statement, that), he leads his band through somewhat shambolic covers of everything from "Stand By Me" and "Love Is Strange" to a handful of songs from fellow Texas legend Buddy Holly. While few would be qualified to guess just what Erickson was thinking during these sessions, he sounds thoroughly energized and engaged on pretty much everything here (and sings pure and clear on the quiet stuff), and while the bandmembers obviously are playing most of these songs without any sort of advance preparation, when they manage to lock in, they kick up an impressive amount of dust (especially hard-charging guitarist Duane Aslaksen). More than a bit ragged (and the audio falls short of hi-fi), but a good bit more entertaining than most collections of Erickson's ramblings out there, Don't Knock the Rok! at very least demonstrates what a great rock & roll singer Erickson is...and who knew that he liked Bye Bye Birdie?
Mark Deming, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. A Teenager in Love
  2. Angel Baby
  3. You Drive Me Crazy
  4. Stand By Me
  5. Heartstrings
  6. [Untitled]
  7. What to Do
  8. You're the One
  9. Bashful Bob
  10. One Last Kiss
  11. Take Good Care of My Baby
  12. Things That Go Bump in the Night
  13. Wake Up to Rock & Roll
  14. Can't Be Brought Down
  15. Money Honey
  16. You're the One
  17. Love Is Strange
  18. True Love Ways
  19. You're the One
  20. Our First Kiss
  21. Heartbreak Hotel
  22. Bumble Bee Zombie
  23. Hushabye