Friday, February 23, 2018

The J. Geils Band: Love Stinks

"You love her.
But she loves him.
And he loves somebody else.
You just can't win.
And so it goes til' the day you die.
This thing they call love it's gonna make you cry."

As a kid The J. Geils Band was something like a group of gods in my house to my brother and I growing up. The magnificently epic Love Stinks led the charge as we watched the whizzing wheels of our cassette player fast forward and rewind to our favorites. We didn't know a thing about love. It was the late J. Geils (he sadly passed away in 2017), lead guitarist for the band, with the powerful rock and soul lead vocals of Peter Wolf who taught us very clearly that love stinks and its inescapable. We believed them and the group's clear, concise, definitive proclamation.

As kids my mother had ever so generously purchased each of us our own respective music players. My brother had the cassette player. This writer gambled with the eight track player. It quickly became evident I was on the losing side of history along with the Beta tape crowd. My brother, ever the winner, was just that with his cassette playing stereo. At least for a few years longer than me he was winning.

And that's another thing about popular music, is that it takes us back. There's a nostalgic memory marker on these songs for us sometimes and Love Stinks, apart from being a big, bold pop song is one of those songs for me. It's a stroll down memory lane. It transports us. It brings us back to a special time, a moment, a love. It has the potential for that extremely powerful emotional connection to the past for us. The J. Geils Band is one of those musically audacious bands for me.

The Massachusetts-based band delivered our youthful minds that tremendous power ballad via their recording of the same name Love Stinks (1980) at the start of one of the great music decades.

The whirling disco-tinged buzz saw ran through Come Back and strange story-driven numbers like No Anchovies Please must have concerned my mother, but the oddity of the mix and the weirdness of it all spoke to our curious minds.

The J. Geils Band formed as far back as 1968, but finally hit pay dirt in 1980 briefly and then quickly followed with Freeze Frame (1981) which included the self-titled top ten hit and the Billboard number one Centerfold before Peter Wolf departed for a solo career and the band disbanding shortly thereafter.

There was something about that crazy Peter Wolf, with his American swagger with a touch of Mick Jagger, that elevated him to crazy cool god status for me, but alas my affection for his music ended with his first two solo recordings for EMI, Lights Out (1984) and Come As You Are (1987). More on one or two of those tracks in the future here.

As for The J. Geils Band they filled a certain niche and period of my young life and I'll forever have fond memories of some of their songs in the early 1980s. Some of their songs were fantastic, even teaching us at a very young age a thing or two about love and sex and centerfolds. And Love Stinks is a hearty, musically audacious, thick, robust rocker that brings us back home.

Love Stinks: C+. The J. Geils Band never made a perfect recording for me and neither did Peter Wolf as a solo artist for that matter, but they had some great singles. Love Stinks has some good moments. Just Can't Wait, Come Back and the incredibly strong title track saw the band make a mark.

Love Stinks: A. A tremendous track led by that cock sure guitar thanks to the band's leader and Wolf with a strong rock vocal. Wolf was at his best in the 1980s. A truly remarkable and playful voice.

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