Rhino does it again. Another righteously assembled compilation, this time of the MC5, the Detroit greaser revolutionaries. It's hard now to imagine how subversive and radical these guys really were: They were the only band that dared show at the '68 Chicago Democratic Convention, their sequined threads and Rob Tyner's 'fro a slap in the face to all hippiedom. While the '60s West Coast scene embraced psychedelia, the MC5 were dealing with race riots and blue-collar Midwest living. Managed by local jazz fan-DJ-White Panther enthusiast John Sinclair (the Panther's credo advised would-be street revolutionaries to make an "assault on the culture by any means necessary, including dope and fucking in the streets"), the Motor City Five's politics and raw sound kept them from becoming a household name.
The record opens with their first single, a cover of Van Morrison and Them's "I Can Only Give You Anything." (It's obviously where musical cut-and-paste guy Beck copped the "Devil's Haircut" riff.) Featuring prime chunks of all three albums (Kick Out the Jams, Back in the USA and High Time) plus four rare tracks, the MC5 emerge as what they always were: a classic-rock, '50s-influenced (Chuck Berry) guitar band, more notable for attitude and volume than mind-blowing innovations (those were left to their "little brother band" the Stooges, who coat-tailed it onto the MC5's Elektra deal).
The CD booklet has cool Wayne Kramer liner notes and vintage band photos. Sadly, vocalist Tyner died in 1991; Fred "Sonic" Smith, who was married to punk poet/icon Patti, died in 1994. Ironically, they're more influential now than ever.