DAILY RECORD: The It*Men

by | Oct 21, 2013 | MUSIC

The It*Men – Greatest Its (Stow House Records)

It’s easy to let a back story or a set of loudly-touted influences overshadow an album’s actual content, which seems to be very much the case with The It*Men. Though the band itself had ceased to exist nearly a decade previously, the band’s album Greatest Its came about as something of a reunion, after singer and Cleveland music scene fixture Ken Jannsen was diagnosed with ALS and wanted to leave some document of his musical output.

The It*Men – Greatest Its (Stow House Records)

It’s easy to let a back story or a set of loudly-touted influences overshadow an album’s actual content, which seems to be very much the case with The It*Men. Though the band itself had ceased to exist nearly a decade previously, the band’s album Greatest Its came about as something of a reunion, after singer and Cleveland music scene fixture Ken Jannsen was diagnosed with ALS and wanted to leave some document of his musical output. The It*Men exist as the sort of rock and roll band started by people with large record collections, the type of group that comes about after emptying too many beer cans listening to Blue Cheer albums, and having too many conversations about starting a band that sounds like MC5 meets Radio Birdman.

Regarding the former point, the album isn’t what most would likely imagine it to be. Though its creation was predicated on the terminal illness of a member, it’s hardly the sort of maudlin affair that it could’ve easily turned into. Instead, the songs breeze by with a raw vitality that belies either health issues or the hiatus that the band had undertaken in the years prior to the album’s release. The production value, unpolished but not overly muddy sounding, adds to the overall impression the songs convey, and the fact that the band recorded the material in their practice space contributes to the self-motivated.

The stamp that the band’s influences have left, an element of their approach that seems to be referenced quite a bit in descriptions of the album, are a bit less readily apparent than the joie de vivre at the heart of their music. Names like Blue Cheer, The Stooges, and The Sonics get bandied about, but The It*Men rely less on the swaggering id-rock thud of those bands and more on the sort of Midwestern, smartassed take on garagey rock that’s closer to the first few Replacements albums, or maybe early Soul Asylum. It’s snarky and blustery with a weird sense of humor, but there’s a sense of personality to the album that few comparable bands have attained.

While it may not fill the footsteps of the bands it claims to emulate, Greatest Its is a solid set of boozy, rowdy material that survives on ramshackle energy. Though it was birthed by tragic circumstances, it stands as a testament to the power of rock and roll to act as a bonding, fortifying agent, casting pinpoint lights in the darkness for each lost, desperate practioner to grasp at. The album is but a brief blurt, but its ebullience and energy are undeniable.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.
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