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April 3, 2005

Stripped of inspiration, Makers fail to win back old fan

I had a bad feeling about this album from the get-go.

My day started innocently enough. No omens, no dire voices whispering warnings about the coming evil. Hell, the day was sunny, people were out on the quads, and I even managed to wring a cheerful greeting out of my terminally morose neighbor. Life was good, innocent, and filled with possibility.

So, when I saw the new Makers album snuggled away cozily in the Maroon office, I thought I'd give it a spin, in spite of my well-publicized "No Record Reviews of Bands I Used to Like" rule. This was because I was both in an unusually good mood to review music (e.g. sober, giddy, and full-to-the-brim with forgiveness for all of mankind's foibles) and feeling nostalgic for my younger days back in rusty old Pennsylvania.

See, in my younger salad days as a denim-hided child of the punk rock underground, the Makers loitered at the edge of the scene like herpes at a swingers' party. Everybody had heard of them, sometimes favorably. They were a band from Seattle, out of step with the punk rock movement, looking grim and gaunt while everyone else was wearing bondage pants and beer bellies. Long before it was even remotely cool to be associated with anything vintage, bluesy, or garage, they bore shag haircuts and necklaces made from human teeth (we never found the guts to ask if it was theirs or…).

These were some weird, sleazy, drugged-out fuckers who tried to get your girlfriend to take her shirt off while playing Count Five and Sonics covers. They'd even attempt to steal your wallet while you bought beer. And their records—oh, those wonderful, schizophrenic platters! They were horrible messes, blueprints for how not to record an album: the vocals were indiscernible, the drums pounded like a hangover from hell, and the guitar amps groaned and shrieked in protest at the waves of fuzzed-out sonic bedlam that hemorrhaged out of their torn speakers.

In those days, nothing epitomized springtime debauchery more than a pack of cigarettes, a few stolen beers, and one of the Makers' albums on Estrus Records (a fantastic, trashy garage label, by the by) thrown on the record player while you sat on the roof of a friend's house to watch the sound waves completely disorient the local wildlife.

Ah, youth.

Anyway, I threw this CD into my Rube Goldberg-esque stereo and gave it a good, hard listen. What reached my ears at first listen was bland, quasi-"nasty" rock from a bunch of poorly aged rockers playing generic tunes about generic subjects. I immediately shut off the stereo and grabbed a bottle of vino. No use listening to this sober, I figured. So, I put it on again, forced myself to listen to it the whole way through, and then felt distinctly awful. Allow me to quote directly from my notes:

"No passion, no feeling. The Makers don't mean it anymore. They may have never meant it in the first place, scurrying from fad to fad like rats that dash for dark corners when you turn on the lights. Squeaky-clean production and lackluster performances are a dangerous combination. What the hell is this song? ‘Four Button Suit?' Yeah, there's a real barn-burner, a scorcher. My mom'll sure be pissed to hear that one, asshole. Aerosmith wants their wardrobe back, you schmucks. And goddamnit, Michael Maker, stop looking like Prince. Where's the fucking necklaces? Where's the style? Where's my money back?"

A bit harsh, I might add, but I'm hard-pressed to amend it.

Sure, there's a few good numbers here. "Let Him Try" is a fantastically hypnotic song about stealing someone's girl, with a harp riff that's stolen straight from a '50s Chicago blues track. "Do What I Wanna" is a snotty throwback to the Makers of old, complete with snippets of live audience-baiting before launching into a pulverizing, acetone-melting minute-and-a-half of fun.

But outside of that, we're left with nothing but a bar-band stuck in well-covered turf without the passion or conviction to make it their own. Next time, for the love of all that is good and righteous, steal it like you own it, boys. I can't bear to watch another old favorite die a slow death.

"So what?" you might ask. "We don't care about your feeling old or disappointed."

Fair enough. This isn't the worst album I've ever heard. But knowing that it could have been so much better should be reason alone not to buy this. Download it if you must, rip it off a friend, buy it with free iTunes codes or something. Just don't come crying to me if you get suckered into spending money on it.