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At the turn of the century, the Backdoor Men found themselves in the
same room for the first time in many years. They quickly realized
the flame was yet to be extinguished, and under the direction of
producer Paul Nickels, they found themselves in the studio recording
the record they had never made during their spotty career. Thus was
born "Mohawk Combover," available here today. Though in many ways
not really characteristic of the original Backdoor Men sound - it
features excellent sonics and some playing that's actually good -
it's a fucking good rock & roll record, and is available for
purchase through PayPal for just $10, including shipping.
Scan down the page to read a number of reviews
of the record. Don't have PayPal? Send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll figure something out.
Cool Cleveland Sounds
The Backdoor Men
For aging punk bands, reunions
are a dodgy business. It might smack of age-ism, but the fact
is, punk rock is a young man's (or woman's) music, and for those
looking the half-century mark in the eye, making snotty,
pissed-off songs can seem just a little ridiculous. That's not
to say that reuniting an old band is a guaranteed failure, but
more often than not, the resulting gigs and records are far less
satisfying than what came out of the old days. Luckily for the
Backdoor Men, a Cleveland garage-punk five-piece that did the
rounds of the city's dive bars between 1977-87, passing time has
not diminished its spirit, and years of experience have largely
failed to hone its members playing into something too slick for
rock and roll. And unlike some "geezer acts," who attempt to
ignore the effects of time, the band openly mocks its status as
elder statesmen, titling its reunion disc Mohawk Combover, which
shows that twenty-five years after the band's initial
dissolution, their tongues are still planted firmly in cheek.
Mohawk Combover is a mixed bag, a scattershot collection of
songs reflecting the band's rather diverse songwriting range.
There are classic Cleveland
style punk tunes, like "Cultural Insanity," that fit neatly next
to their contemporaries the Dead Boys and Rocket from the Tombs
- all Raw Power riffage and Rust Belt loathing, there are songs
with a blues influence, rife with slide guitar, and there are
blasts of pure garage rock. "Not Fed Up With You Yet" comes
complete with squalling Farfisa and tons of fuzz, but that's the
problem - it's far too stereotypical a garage sound. Better is
the following track, "Bus Station Gyration," which shoots for
the Yardbirds vibe, but ends up more like the Count Five - good
classic garage rock was all about trying and failing to sound
like your heroes. On tracks like "F*ck the French" and "Sh#t
Outta Luck" the band gets in trouble; it is simply not becoming
for grown men to take part in such juvenile rants.
The Backdoor Men, despite
their punk roots, do best when sinking their teeth into more
"mature" sounds, like the melodic, harmonica-laced Americana of
"Pure Heart." Still, the disc is a fine testament to a band
that, unlike so many of its compadres, survived to tell the tale
of its wild youth and create music that echoes its original
sound without slavishly re-treading old ground, and for
long-term fans, there is a present - the bonus track is an
appropriately muddy live rendition of "Eve of Destruction"
recorded at Fitzpatrick's Rainbow in 1977. From the lack of
crowd noise, it sounds like there were about a dozen people in
the room. Hopefully, the next time the band decides to grace a
Cleveland stage, there will be a warmer reception.
from Cool Cleveland
contributor Leslie Basalla
European Music Mag
The Backdoor Men
Cleveland's notorious Backdoor
Men, who struggled through the underground rock scene of the mid
to late 70s, have handed fans of indie rock a treat with the
issuance of a reunion CD, Mohawk Combover. The CD is a dynamic
burst of true punk. Now, don't let my use of the word punk
mislead you. You won't hear the traditional "punk" sound
dominating here. This is punk in the truest sense, just plain
old raw, indie, straight up rock from the underground. Styles
vary (you'll hear 60s flavor keyboard psychedelic garage rock,
for example) - this is not a solid cd of one punk song after
another, all sounding the same. This is classic, tasty garage
sounds from a band that loves what they used to do (and did
Tired of new bands who only
know how to slavishly ape the Stooges and the Velvets? Then this
long-awaited new 40th anniversary album by Cleveland’s legendary
Backdoor Men is for you because Mohawk Combover takes its
retrofitted satirical musical cues from the likes of Alice
Cooper (“Take Me Away”), the Stranglers (“Not Fed Up With You
Yet”) and even the Dictators (“Bus Station Gyration”).
Even better, they have the respectfully acute sense of history
to cover a song written by one of their legendary old pals, the
late Peter Laughner. Not only does Laughner’s “I’m So F#cked Up”
get the full Huey Lewis And The News treatment, he also gets a
dedicatory nod for being one of the founding fathers of
Cleveland rock—a scene Laughner helped create in his spare time
when he wasn’t busy writing record reviews for CREEM.
And if you’re not sure what inspirational two-tub lyrics like
“San Francisco, cans of Crisco” mean, don’t worry because the
little girls understand and they’re all going down under the
thunder of the Backdoor Men.
Handsome Jeff Morgatoba
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Led by singer-guitarist Dan
Cook and singer-guitarist Terry Hartman, the Backdoor Men
recently reconvened to record 12 new songs and a handful of
covers at Don Depew's 609 Recording studio in Bedford.
Originally formed in 1977, the Backdoor Men played the same
circuit as the Dead Boys and Pere Ubu but never got the same
notoriety. This disc suggests the guys got shortchanged. Without
following predictable punk patterns, Mohawk Combover features
the wide-ranging songwriting talents of Cook and Hartman.
They're all over the map, recalling Velvet Underground art punk
(“Everything is Killing Me (And There's Nothing Worth Dying
For)” and Pagans-like despair (“Shit Outta Luck”) while
branching out into the blues (“I'm So Fucked Up”) and garage
rock (“Not Fed Up with You Yet”).
— Jeff Niesel
Nothing worse than sitting at
a bar next to some kid explaining how punk these days is great.
Yeah, right, some tattooed, dreadlock-head screaming over heavy
metal that sounds like Metallica on steroids. So you try to
explain how punk started in the 1970s, full of this
radio-music-sucks, my-life-sucks vibe that brought about
three-minute songs that kind of sucked in a good way. The kid
looks at me the same way I looked at my dad when he talked about
What I can't tell the kid is
what it was like growing up in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1970s. Too
weird. Reacting to stagnant music and rust belt depression,
bands like Rocket from the Tombs, The Dead Boys, Pere Ubu, Tin
Huey, and Devo created an industrial garage rock that would
eventually influence bands like The Ramones and The Talking
Heads. The Cleveland punk sound was "young, loud, and snotty," a
peculiar mix of techno-pop, searing and fast guitar riffs, and
One punk/pop band that played
in Cleveland without much notoriety back then was the Backdoor
Men. They were a decent bar band, but they never broke out. The
Backdoor Men started in 1977, put out a few albums, and were
gone by 1987.
So what do old punks do
decades later, now that they're in their 40s and 50s? The
Backdoor Men have decided to write 16 new songs in the
"life-sucks" genre, brought up to date. Think life stunk in your
20s? Well, think again, middle-age guys. Mohawk Combover is
testimony to the fact that dealing with crappy jobs, wives who
can't stand you, and rotten teenage kids is worse. And all done
with strong, punk music that is more inventive than the original
Singer/guitarists Dan Cook and
Terry Hartman drive Mohawk Combover all over the place. "Pissin'
blood and puking bile / Teenage kids are running wild," Cook
wails in "Shit Outta Luck." A depressing ballad called "End of
the Line" speaks of a bad marriage: "I'll break you down, you
wait and see / And drag you down right with me." In another bad
relationship song "Not Fed Up with You Yet," the solution is
"just bring me a beer and a cigarette / 'Cuz I'm not fed up with
Not that all on Mohawk
Combover is angry and depressing. "Fuck the French" is fast and
snotty, "Oklahoma Jack" is ludicrous (" San Francisco / Cans of
Crisco" is the chorus), and "Bus Station Gyration" pokes obscene
fun at musicians. What the Backdoor Men have done is bring back
a sound that grabs you and shakes you no matter how old you are.
Some young people might think that the lyrics ain't for them. My
reaction to that is from my-life-sucks past and present
viewpoint. Who cares what you think, you little punk pretender?
And buy me a beer and I'll tell you more bad stories.
All right, punk. You better
get over here and listen to this reunion album by the notorious
Backdoor Men. What’s that? You never heard of ’em? Where you
been, livin’ under a rock or somethin’?
Well, maybe it has been 20
years or so since these participants in Cleveland’s late-’70s
rock scene disappeared after their first reunion, under the name
Napoleon in Rags; which followed a split into two groups – Terry
& The Tornadoes and The Bombers – after their first three years
of existence. Are you following this?
Fact is they worked that
town’s punk circuit from 1977 to 1987 in one form or another,
inspired by local acts the
Now they’re back, on disc at
least, taking their second chance with a batch of new material
that reflects all their phases and influences: punk,
psychedelic, blues, garage and folk.
They’ve still got their chops
– and their attitude. So check it out before I mess you up.
Originally published by Cleveland Scene Jun 02, 2004
©2004 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
infusion of energy from a young scenester revives a '70s punk
BY JASON BRACELIN
It's a sucker's bet if ever
there was one. "Your odds are 1 in 10,000 in rock and roll,"
says Paul Nickels, drummer for the '70s punks the Backdoor Men.
"At some certain point you hit the wall, you have babies at
home, your wife is glaring at you every time you go out to
rehearsal and come home drunk. And it just ends.”
The end for Nickels came 17
years ago. He was 33 and had spent 10 years doing up to four
sets a night at dives like Fitzgerald's Rainbow and Hennessy's,
getting paid mostly in sore backs. His band's second-to-last
show drew 18 people, its final gig fewer than 50.
And so Nickels settled down,
had kids, watched his life unfold like a John Cougar Mellencamp
tune. Then, two years ago, he got sick...
"I had to take a chemotherapy
routine that lasted a year, and I knew I was going to be sick
for a long time and I wasn't going to be able to do much,"
Nickels says. "So I got myself a new computer, and I went
upstairs to my attic and got out this old tape box of the
Backdoor Men, and I started going through it.
"I wound up making a couple of
CDs of old Backdoor Men stuff. I sent it out to the boys in the
band; they all got a big kick out of it. We thought, 'You know,
let's make a record.'"
The punk dads quickly wrote a
batch of new songs, but they were feeling their age by the time
of their first rehearsal.
"We got scared," Nickels
recalls over a Dortmunder at Sushi Rock, a cosmopolitan eatery
where everyone seems to look better than you. "We thought, we
have this great clutch of songs, but maybe we're not going to be
able to pull this off. I think the turning point was when you
came in," Nickels says, turning to the 24-year-old sitting to
Derek DePrator, with his
powder-blue Neil Young shirt, bright-green Chuck Taylors, and
star earrings, makes an unlikely business partner for the
now-recovered Nickels, who sports a thinning crew cut, wire-rim
glasses, and a dark button-down shirt that covers broad
shoulders. They came together over their shared admiration for
deceased Cleveland-punk great Peter Laughner, late of Rocket
From the Tombs and Pere Ubu.
Introduced to Nickels through
a former bandmate of Laughner's, DePrator joined the Backdoor
Men at practice and promptly laid down scorching slide guitar on
the new cut "Bus Station Gyration."
"Here's this scrawny little
kid, he plugs in his Telecaster and in one take does this
jaw-dropping slide guitar," Nickels recalls. "We were inspired.
We got pumped up, and from there it really took off."
The Backdoor Men recorded 24 songs and released the 16 best on
Mohawk Combover, an album worth the decades-long wait. Abrasive
and affecting, it pits sardonic blast-furnace punk ("Fuck the
French") against nervy psychedelia ("Oklahoma Jack") and
penitent balladry ("Pure Heart").
"This record doesn't sound
like an old record; it just hearkens back to real rock and
roll," says DePrator, a veteran of well-known Cleveland bands
that include Cobra Verde, the Tellers, Pleasure Void, and the
Combover was released on
Nickels and DePrator's newly launched label, Handsome
Productions, which also dropped the Atomic Crash's When the
Train Left the Station, an album of lo-fi country blues on which
DePrator croons ruefully over guitars that ache like the best
bee sting you've ever had.
But Handsome's biggest buzz
has come from Nickels's previously unavailable recordings from
Laughner -- an estimated 14 albums' worth of music, which will
be released sporadically, along with work by promising local
bands. The first Laughner album, Setting Son, is a sparse,
personal collection, mostly recorded in Laughner's bedroom, with
him introducing songs and playing mean slide guitar.
"Sometimes young talent needs
that kind of direction, and that's what I would hope Handsome
could do over time." Nickels says. "This is the guy that's in
the scene -- I'm the old man sitting at home with the kids," he
adds, nodding toward DePrator. "He can feed stuff into the
label, we can get it into the market, do it all in Cleveland.
That's what we would hope to be able to do, to help show people
Here’s more proof that the old
punks can still write better songs than almost any of the young
bands running around these days. The Backdoor Men date back to
the late seventies Cleveland punk scene. Like a lot of area
bands from that time period, they kicked around for a few years
and then broke up, influencing a few other local musicians but,
for the most part, fading into obscurity. At the turn of this
century, the guys decided they wanted to play together again,
and ultimately wrote about 30 new songs, 16 of which are on this
disc. With their garage rock influences (something they had way
before it became trendy), the band actually sounds pretty up to
date. The songs are simple but played and arranged well, and
the vocals are distinctive and melodic. This band is about
having fun, so nothing too weighty in the lyric department.
They descend into novelty tune territory with “Fuck the French”,
but otherwise they avoid becoming a joke band. Overall, the
Backdoor Men are somewhere between bands like The Rubber City
Rebels, Rocket From the Tombs, New York Dolls, etc. and sixties
garage rockers like Them, The Sonics, or The Thirteenth Floor
Elevators. If that sounds good to you, check this out. (Bob