The Boiler Room had quite a bit of longevity for a DIY space, lasting just a little over three years until it closed in early June—the last show was actually in late May but that wasn't the intention. For those of you who never got to visit the Boiler Room, it was in the basement of a delapidated building in the middle of a truck lot in Allston. The relatively isolated location probably allowed it to last as long as it did. The shows there had a generally late starting time. I used to refer to it as "Boiler Room O'Clock," which usually meant about 2 1/2 hours after the listed starting time--that's when you would know about the shows in the first place. The people running the space eschewed and discouraged creating on-line events and if you weren't "in the loop" or got a flyer, you often didn't know about the shows. But word of mouth was effective since almost every show was full. And the shows were crazy--loud, smoky and it wasn't surprising to be bombarded by showers of beer or various types of fireworks. Even with all the chaos, everyone seemed to get along, for the most part. I don't recall seeing any serious altercations, although I guess there were a few from time to time. And the acoustics were better than most clubs I go to, although if there wasn't a good PA, the vocals were sometimes tough to hear.
FUN AT THE BOILER ROOM
Non-Factory, which was located near Dudley Square in Roxbury, had a shorter tenure, a bit over a year this time. It stopped doing shows shortly after the Boiler Room closed, due to the landlord renting out the space to someone else. It started last year on the second floor in the building but that part of the building got shut down for code violations. It moved downstairs to a larger spot in the basement that probably held 200 people, although I never saw it filled up. The space was actually home to some great shows for a few years in the early 2000s, when it was known as the Berwick Research Institute or just the Berwick. It was a converted bakery building and the first floor hosted various art programs and community research and development. Some of the bands that played there were Amdi Petersens Arme, Born Dead Icons, Tragedy, Severed Head Of State, Tear It Up and plenty more.
A few months ago, there was an investigative report on one of the local TV stations, about how there was an “illegal late night party” in a loft building around the corner from where the Boiler Room was. The reporter, Mike Beaudet, who also teaches journalism at Northeastern, sent in three “undercover” students, to conduct an investigation as a class project. They’d found out about the “concert,” as one of the reporters described it, on-line and there was actually an advance ticket sale, with the location being disclosed a few hours beforehand. With techno music thumping in the background and ominous narration, hidden-camera video was taken and it showed a cash bar (with no ID required—oh nooooo!!!”). It showed people using marijuana and cocaine (the HORROR!). The report also said that there had been more than 30 of these underground events in the last two years. I guess the people behind this report don’t get out that much. The city inspector talked about “inappropriate use of space that puts people in a dangerous situation.” Is he sure he isn’t talking about city hall?
This was the same building where three DIY spaces were shut down at the same time in 2013. They’d hosted shows with bands that probably wouldn’t have been booked in local clubs and, truth be told, the shows would have been a lot lamer in those venues. There were never any problems, just people getting together to see bands and have a good time. Something the city officials apparently consider to be a serious crime.
Same as it's always been... a big game of venue whack-a-mole and I'm sure another one will emerge at some point.
LOUD, BLARING PUNK ROCK...
... that was the original name for the Albany based Loud Punk label and Mr. Chris Lawrence continues to release a steady stream of records from bands around the country and overseas. Beginning in his neck of the woods, there's the debut album from Scuzz, Songs of the Sordid. following a few demos, a 7" and split with Male Patterns. Over the course of 18 or so minutes, they unleash the hardcore fury with few breaks between songs. Bringing back pleasant memories of bands like 9 Shocks Terror or even their Albany forebears The Jury. Fast and frenetic, without going completely out of control, just a buzzcloud of pure energy and the penultimate track is a successful stab at The Mad's "I Hate Music." I Maniaci is basically the Neon Maniacs incognito. This two song, one-sided 7", Clone My Cock" and "Snoopy Is A Paedophile," w recorded in 2010. A pair of enjoyably-scabrous, snotty, guitar-driven rockers.
The other three Loud Punk records are of varying vintage--Lower Class Brats' Primary Reinforcement Plus covers this Austin band's 7" output from 1995 to 1999. A lifetime spent watching A Clockwork Orange and The Warriors (their label is Orphan music and they had a song about that gang on another record) and listening to a steady diet of 80s-era UK punk 'n Oi--Last Resort, Blitz, etc. That was the blueprint for the earlier songs but they eventually added more of a driving rock 'n roll element. Some fist-pumping, singalong rousers here, particularly their final salvo, "Rather Be Hated." This is an expanded version of a 1997 compilation of their first three 7"s.
Slightly less-enticing is a reissue of Scottish band External Menace's 1997 album The Process Of Elimination, appended with a few unreleased songs. Instead of the rough 'n scrappy punk produced by the earlier lineup of the band, the songs here have a lighter touch, with bits of reggae and funky bass parts. The bass parts are overplayed and are more prominent than the guitars at times. It's still energetic on occasion--"The Process Of Elimination" and "Bullet Of Persuasion" are punchy punk ravers but there's not enough raw energy.
That's not the case for another Scottish band, Last Rites, with the re-release of their 1984 7" (their second) Fascism Means War. '82 in '84, keeping the ragtag punk spirit alive when some other bands were "evolving" a bit. Mainly loud 'n fast and "Convicted Without Trial" adds an oi-ish element to the buzz. A worthwhile unearthing. (PO Box 6115, Albany, NY 12206, www.loudpunk.com)
... and more noise...
ANCIENT FILTH-Earth Brains (self-released, flexi)
Well, six years in and Ancient Filth still haven't released a 12". There have been two 7"s and some demos and the band's latest installment is this three song flexi and it's another ripping effort. Full-tilt hardcore with sputtering guitar lines and kickass drumming to go with Matty's vocal rants. But he's not just mindlessly ranting--the title track is a riff on a passage in Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens Of Titan--yes, I looked it up--and the refrain is "terror grief desolation comes to every earthling nation." There are feelings of helplessness and that's often been expressed through this band's lyrics. Still one of Boston's best and with the usual quality packaging, with this release including a lyric booklet and poster. (www.frankleclair.com/AF)
ASCEND/DESCEND-Murdock Street (War Fever/Dead Tank/Tor Johnson, LP)
Driving hardcore fusing thick riffs and heaviness with Scandi-thrash but there are melodic nuances, such as the guitar tone on "Murdock," which is named after a street in Allston but is thematically about personal turmoil.That applies to a number of songs here. "Trigger Warning" throws the currently disparaged and mocked term back in people's faces, dealing with the aftermath of a rape--so the next time someone makes jokes about safe spaces, perhaps this song should played back at them at full volume. Michelle pours out her heart with plenty of anger and emotional heft and the latter applies to the music, as well. (www.torjohnsonrecords.com)
BARRICADED SUSPECTS-s/t (Closet Landscapes, 7')
"Fuck This Shit World"... yeah, I'd say that fits the attitude of this Nashville band. Barricaded Suspects, who I'm guessing take their name from the old Toxic Shock compilation album, come storming out the gates with a simple, straight-forward hardcore attack. Loud, fast and pissed and I doubt they'll be playing the Grand Ole Opry or any other "respectable" venue anytime soon. (PO Box 60294, Nashville, TN 37206, barricadedsuspects.bandcamp.com)
BILL BONDSMEN-Until The Razor Cuts (Mastermind, LP)
The Bondsmen have been around for over ten years and Until The Razor Cuts is only their second full-length. In fact, it was culled from two recording sessions, one in 2011 and one in 2014. Some of the non-LP selections from the 2011 session already appeared on various 7"s. Another dark and intense collection of electrifying, nightmarish punk. The latter also perfectly describes Tony's cutting, soul-purging vocals, which have just enough distortion on them to enhance the effect. In addition to the straight-ahead fury for the bulk of these songs, there's new territory explored. "Gears" has a sinister aura, adding some spooky-sounding organ to a deliberate, mind-messing excursion. The knife pictured on the cover and the title give you a pretty accurate picture of what's on the vinyl. (mastermindrec.com; billbondsmen.bandcamp.com)
BLACKBALL-Visions Of The Third Eye Undone (Sorry State, 7")
Bone to pick, eh? That's not only the first song on this record but the overall feel from this band from Richmond and Raleigh. Ericka emits pure bile and the sound mixes slam-bang US hardcore with some Scandinavian influences along the lines of a band like Talk Is Poison. Rage you can feel. (www.sorrystaterecords.com)
BORN WRONG-s/t (Schizophrenic, LP)
The first 12" release for this somewhat unheralded band from Hamilton, Ontario. Blistering hardcore full of pent up rage and enough off-kilter ear damaging properties to separate it from the mundane. That lasts from the floor-pounding stomp of "Nailed" until the all-out speed-driven onslaught of "How Will I Survive." Lamentations of a harsh existence--for instance, anyone dealing with a soul-sucking job will be able to relate to "Disposable" and those words are delivered with a pain-drenched howl. The accompanying poster is an illustration of a pretty winter scene, children playing in front of a mansion. But flip it over and you're confronted with a drawing of genome surrounded by "your life is a prison" and the front side seems to be but a fantasy and not real life for many people. If you haven't been paying attention to this band and the likes of Hoax, Glue or Gag float your boat, you will love Born Wrong. Limited to 300 copies. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON CANADA, L9C 3M2, schizophrenicrex.com)
THE BROOD-October Dreams (tape)
Another strong (their third) release from Philly's Brood. In case you forgot, this band includes people from Witch Hunt, Lost Cause, Endless Nightmare and many others. Plenty of burn, embracing Swedish hardcore and some UK anarcho punk (particularly on the title track). And, with age, optimism continues to fade, if it was ever there to begin with. "Dying Futures" sums it up succinctly, beginning with Ned's howl and everyone exulting "Nothing to hope for, no one to care, nowhere to go, no one is there" although the message is more that this is the only life and there isn't anything beyond that. Make the most of it, I suppose. This at least provides a cathartic release. (www.filthybrood.com)
COMFORT-No Hurt (tape)
Power-packed hardcore from down under--Brisbane, to be exact. (do Aussies call us Americans "up over"?). Comfort shift easily from thrash to heavier, moodier, darker shadings, with a pulverizing instrumental skill and full-throated vocals. Taking a few moves from Bl'ast, such as occasionally whispered vocal on opening track "Grief Toilet" and the driving "Not About You," which also adds a haunting guitar lick. Nothing comforting here. (comfortzenwar.bandcamp.com)
DEVILS-s/t (Voodoo Rhythm, CD)
A fierce two-piece garage punk dynamo from Italy and boy do they make a racket with such a minimalist lineup. Ten songs varying between revved-up ravers and bluesier stompers, three of 'em being instrumentals. Satan's on the thank-you list, of course, and the song titles reflect the devious subject matter, poking fun (pun intended) at the Catholic church, in particular, as the guy and gal who comprise the Devils dress in religious finery. Both contribute vocals although drummer Ericka Toraldo takes the mike most of the time. Fuzz and bash that's formidable enough to shake up your very soul. (www.voodoorhythm.com)
FLESH RAG-s/t (Schzophrenic, 7")
While listening to this, I was thinking these guys sound a little like the TV Freaks and it turns out their drummer Nathan is in that band. Actually, I like this better than the most recent Freaks material--this is ass-kicking garage punk delivered in no-nonsense fashion. "Stay Away" is acting kind of Childish, if you can read between the lines. "Tonight" is a butt-shaking rocker and "Watch It Burn" is brief and furious. This is how 'ya do it. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON CANADA, L9C 3M2, schizophrenicrex.com)
FRIED EGG-Delirium (Negative Jazz, 7")
A hammering hardcore concoction and the title is fitting, with the ranting vocals, which are similar to Aaron from the Repos, delivering the words in a machine-gun cadence. In fact, a song like “Second Fiddle” isn’t far off from what that band does. “Mixed Feelings” has a rock ‘n roll flavor in the guitar shadings but there’s a dark intensity, especially on the pounding “Eggshells.” (negativejazz.bigcartel.com)
GET OFF THE COP-Lipstick Tim (Schizophrenic, 7")
Brooding, tension-filled bash centered mainly around thick-as-molasses bass-lines and cymbal-smashing drumming, to go with the Yow-ish vocal emanations. "Beef Babe" is a dose of stop 'n start squall but the other pair of songs (one of 'em, "Golden-Hair/Making Love" is actually a two song suite, I guess) follow a more deliberate path to your skull. (17 W. 4th St., Hamilton, ON CANADA, L9C 3M2, schizophrenicrex.com)
GLITTER-Toy Of A Toy (Lumpy, 7")
I caught this Calgary band at a basement show in Jamaica Plain a few years ago. I hadn't heard of them before and they turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Their 12" was a feisty delight and it's more of the same for their debut on Lumpy. Yowling vocals and a mesh of barbed guitar and loping bass lines, compressed in a morass of trebly garage-punk-noise and the guitar and bass lines that start the songs on each side--"Garden" and "Merry Xmas"--have an ominously haunting quality. Lumpy is the perfect home for them. (spottedrace.bigcartel.com)
HERO DISHONEST-Liha Ja Teräs (Peterwalkee, LP)
The album's title translates to "Meat and Steel" and Hero Dishonest continue to dish out fast, frenetic hardcore that's never fit any pat category. When they stay away from the pure thrash, things get a little more interesting. The likes of "Suomi On Rasistinen Perahikia," "Sepalusten Laskija" and "Donitsit" all have a snaky intensity that show off muscular, edgy chops to go along with the harsh-tongued vocals. Even in a speedier track like "Viulut Vireeseen," the instrumentation is tight and dynamic. Not the best album I've heard from them, but still quality stuff. Only 100 copies for the first pressing. (www.peterwalkeerecords.com)
IMPULSE-Backbreaker (To Live A Lie, 7")
Not your typical grinding stuff at all. If anything, Impulse lean more towards floor pounding hardcore and the songs come and go in a flash--11 of 'em jammed onto this 7". There's the occasional blast-beat but it's used sparingly and all of it is tightly-executed. (www.tolivealie.com)
LEISURE WORLD-Demo (tape)
There are bands like Bill Bondsmen and NASA Space Universe who don't fit into any strict hardcore genre, hewing to their own muse. This usually encompasses sputtering and frayed guitar licks and a manic intensity topped off with nightmarish vocals. Outsider hardcore? Maybe I just invented another pat description but it fits. Anyway, that's how I'd describe Leisure World. Beholden to no specific group, just making their own nervy sort of noise, with the axe-mangling accompanied by a thick, propulsive bottom end. You can hear bits of Pissed Jeans in there, as well, especially on the closing "Real Manly MEN." And the gut punching recording brings out those attributes in bold, head-grabbing relief. (leisure-world.bandcamp.com)
LUMPY AND THE DUMPERS-Huff My Sack (Lumpy, LP)
I had a nice Beavis and Butt-Head-type laugh when I saw the title of this album, as well as the scatological artwork. Martin, er, Lumpy is one provocative character and I'm risking getting slapped by his nutsack by writing this review but so be it. "HMS" is Lumpy's first 12" opus (get your mind out of the gutter), not counting the previous anthology, and it's scabrous punk at its best--nasally vocals and a prickly (sorry, again) sonic dust cloud. "I'm Gonna Move To New York" mentions being like Thurston Moore but sounds more like a tribute to Crazy Spirit. The cover song here, "Loony" (he spells it "Looney") is an obscure '78 b-side by the UK band Slime. If the guitar line sounds like the Damned's "Suicide," that's because Captain Sensible played guitar on the original and Lumpy's version sounds even nastier. Brief, thorny blasts, except for the aforementioned "Looney" and epic (all 3+ minutes!) "Spider Bite." (spottedrace.bigcartel.com)
MAD EXISTENCE-s/t (Vinyl Conflict, 7")
Mad is RIGHT... these guys sound mad, ticked off, enraged and whatever other adjective you wish to use. Hardcore with a brawny, stomping vibe along the lines of Wasted Time and 86 Mentality. "My Richmond" is a parochial lament or--more accurately--an unhinged expression of anger about losing their city to police oppression and an annoyingly transient population. That'd be my guess, anyway. Whatever the case, this is pummeling fodder, as subtle as a boot to the face. (324 South Pine St., Richmond, VA 23220, vinylconflict.com)
MONSTERS-The Jungle Noise Recordings (Voodoo Rhythm, CD)
A collection of mid-to-late-90s material from Voodoo Rhythm patriarch Rev. Beat-Man Zeller's longtime band. "Jungle Noise" was a 10" release and the remainder is culled from various 7"s, etc. The Monsters started as more of a rockabilly style band but eventually embraced a tougher garage focus, although they embrace different shades here--bare-knuckled fuzzbusters, heavier blues ("In Hell") and rootsy, pre-British Invasion rock 'n roll. At the center of this is Beat-Man's razor-sharp rasp and he sure ain't no crooner. Even with the occasional dud (their cover of Ricky Nelson's "Lonesome Town" falls flat), there's a good amount of rantin' and ravin' quality to be found. (www.voodoorhythm.com)
NANDAS-s/t (Toxic State, 7")
This NYC band have the Crazy Spirit/Dawn Of Humans muse down pretty well. One song is titled "Dawntown" and perhaps that meant to be tongue-in-cheek.The four quick songs feature buzzy guitar and bass and thumpa-thumpa-thump drums, with barbed-sounding production. One slight change is Anahit's vocals are breathier than on their 2014 demo. Comes with a fold-out poster and small lyric book. More New York punk goodness. (nandas.bandcamp.com)
OBEDIENCE-2016 Demo (tape)
Some ripping hardcore from this Austin band, which features ex-Tear It Up frontman Dave Ackerman, along with people from Breakout, Severed Head Of State, Critaturas and more. Drummer Chris Pfeffer provides a formidable engine to this band's full-tilt sound, throwing in d-beat bash, although Obedience don't strictly fall into that category. It's just high speed pillage from start to finish, with Dave barking out the words with as much anger as always. And without naming names, there's plenty of disgust with what's going on in the contemporary political universe and, sadly, some things never change. (obedience.bandcamp.com)
OPEN WOUNDS-s/t (Refuse, 12")
A Dutch band that includes Vitamin X vocalist Marko on guitar. Pretty straight-forward old-school, melodic hardcore, mainly hewing to a loud/fast approach, although they go for more of a singalong punk style on "Shades of Grey." Peppy and well-played, with bright, energetic arrangements, although they don't really push it to the next level. (www.refusemusic.net)
PRAGMATICS-No Rules, Just Fashion (Prax, 7")
Four songs of brawny, catchy punk rock 'n roll with people from such Boston bands as Fruit Salad, Garbage Strike, St. Ripper and plenty more. Sentiments worn on the sleeve--OK, I'm using a bit of a pun for the title track, about fashion punks and scene status and these guys have been around long enough to know exactly what they're talking out. And they also know how to keep it simple and play with a lot of heart. (pragmatics.bandcamp.com)
RAKTA-III (Iron Lung, LP)
Rakta have pared down to a three piece, eliminated guitar as an instrument, and have moved into more of an experimental realm for their second full-length album. An entrancing effort, a collection of soundscapes, with lengthy instrumental passages, tribal drumming, propulsive bass-lines and an array of vocal, synth and keyboard effects. Don't let this fool you into thinking it's soothing, ambient music--there's still a directness in some of the compositons but not as much as on the debut and I have to admit that their first album, with more of a straightforward goth flavor, will probably remain the go-to one. But for those times you want something more sense-enveloping, "III" more than does the job. (ironlungrecords.bigcartel.com)
RIK AND THE PIGS-Life's A Bust (Feel It, 7")
These guys have been around a few years but I’m late to the party and his/their latest, Life’s A Bust, is my introduction. Turns out Rik is :Lumpy's older brother and, although the Pigs aren’t really sonically similar, it’s still against the grain stuff, from the artsy garage/post-punk of “Vile Order” to Conheads-ish “Nothing” to the slow-burn swamp blues of the title track, which kind of pales in comparison to those sharper, briefer tracks. It’s enough to make me go back and explore earlier releases. (feelitrecordshop.com)
SEX HOGS II-Part One (Diaper Cake, tape)
An excursion into 50s and 60s-inspired rock 'n roll, with rough 'n tumble vocals, accompanied by guitar, drums, tambourine and occasional sax, plus bass on one song. Energetically-executed (except for the slow-dance ballad "Sacrifice") and while it's far from polished, if it was a lot dirtier-sounding i.e. even lower fidelity than it is, it'd probably hold more interest for me. (sexhogs.bandcamp.com)
SLANG-Devastation In The Void (Prank, LP)
Long-delayed US release for the latest album from this longtime Sapporo, Japan band (home of the 1972 Winter Olympics! Japan scored three medals) and it's a scorcher. Slang started out, many years back, as a NYHC-inspired hardcore band but that's long in the rear-view mirror. Their sound is an assimilation of Burning Spirits hardcore--hoarse, agonized vocals and a hard-charging attack. That means there's a fair amount of crossover metallic riffage, taking a few bows in Slayer's direction. Relentless and furious. By the way, it turns out that Sapporo is in the running for the Winter Olympics in 2026 or 2030. Maybe Slang can play the opening ceremonies. (PO Box 410892, San Fransciso, CA 94141-0892, prankrecords.com)
TRASH KNIFE-Trash Life (Endless Daze, tape)/Trash Knife (tape)
A pair of releases from this Philly band. "Trash Life" is the older of the two and has since been released on a 7". Anyway, some tuneful punk/rock'n roll. Not pop-punk but the songs are infused with a bit of garage snarl. The vocals have a sing-songy sarcasm (how's that for alliteration?) but there's a subtle anger. "Kill Your Selfie" is a well-aimed barb at self-absorbed smartphone snappers and "Tips" deals with the frustration of restaurant work. On the more positive side, "Ronda," about the UFC fighter, is a bouquet to the former champ and it's one of the catchiest songs here. Engaging stuff. (endlessdaze.storenvy.com; trashknife.bandcamp.com)
TV FREAKS-BYOT/The Pits (Schizophrenic, 7")
What happened? This band's first two albums were killer but the third, "Bad Luck Charms," was something of a letdown (I never got a copy, just heard MP3s)--not awful, in fact some of it grew on me a bit, but some songs lacked the kinetic spark of before. Sad to say this single isn't that hot, either. "D.Y.O.T." is four-minutes-plus of mid-paced rock that never really takes off. "The Pits" is better--some wild 'n wooly, stompin' slop but still not quite up to previous levels. (schizophrenicrex.com)
UROCHROMES-s/t (Lumpy, 7")
Six of the eight songs from their "Get In Line For Mental Decline" demo and these Western Massholes have a somewhat unclassifiable sound. Loud and boisterous with different strains of punk, hardcore and garage filtered through and it's a thoroughly rockin' concoction. To add a different wrinkle, they use a rhythm machine and it adds quite a wallop, along with the snarling and sneering vocals. (spottedrace.bigcartel.com)
VAASKA-Futuro Primitivo (Beach Impediment, 7")
Nothing new to report here--Vaaska keep cranking out one solid d-beat hardcore disc after another. Truth be told, I kind of miss the semi-melodic warm guitar tone from the early records since that added a different wrinkle but this is still sturdy, streamlined, floor rattling stuff. They also stand above the pack a bit by merit of Victor Gutierrez's formidable guitar shredding. Originally released in Japan for their tour there and now given a US pressing. (beachimpedimentrecords.bigcartel.com)
VARIOUS-No Sun Shines Here (Ryvvolte, 7")
The sleeve is a bit of a riff on the Mob's "No Doves Fly Here" and this collects six of the current crop of Philly hardcore bands from the more aggressive side of the spectrum, bands that operate in heavier, crustier realms. The Brood get things off to a rattling, d-beat infused start. Dronez, Alement and Incisor have heavier crust inspirations, while Dopestroke (the one defunct band here) have a more traditional hardcore sound. Interloper wraps things up in a fast, stripped-down fashion with the cleverly-titled "Rizzo Baby Attacked By Rats," as in Frank Rizzo, the fascistic former police chief and mayor. Nothing terribly groundbreaking but a good representation of one part of Philly's vibrant scene. (ryvvolterecords.storenvy.com)
X45-EP2 (tape)/EP1 (tape)
This Hamilton, ON band, with people from School Jerks and Born Wrong, kick out some tough rockin' n' rollin' stuff. Their first tape, released earlier this year, somehow got lost in the pile and that shouldn't have happened because both of 'em are pretty damned good. It has a proto-punk feel ala Crime, possessing an insolent swagger to go along with the Thunders-punctuated buzz. Attitude to spare. (exfortyfive.bandcamp.com)
Descending Memphis by Robert R. Moss (Valor Books, 195 pages)
Rob Moss's roots are in the DC hardcore scene, having played in Government Issue and Artificial Peace but this novel doesn't touch on his punk roots--at least on a superficial level. Descending Memphis is a gritty crime story with a slight musical twist that's set largely in Memphis in 1956, at the dawn of the rock 'n roll era. Told in the first person by the novel's protagonist Tommy Rhodeen, it's a tale of his yearning to follow a passion for music, having recorded a demo for Sun Records but he's ended up working as a private investigator, mainly employed to retrieve people's property--cars, jewelry, etc. His Aunt Norma is trying to convince him to become an auto mechanic, something he doesn't desire to do because he fears it will trap him in a dead-end life.
One day he get summoned by a wealthy businessman to retrieve something quite a bit different--his daughter Helen, who has vanished, seemingly into the seedy underbelly of Memphis's music scene. Tommy spends a lot of time pursuing Helen, coming up empty and getting himself into a whole lot of trouble along the way--drugs, murder and political corruption all play a part in the story. There are racial elements, as well, and while Tommy uses terms like "colored," he doesn't come across as a racist as it's revealed that a black laborer at his house was the person who taught him how to play guitar and planted the seed for his musical passions. There's a wariness between the races, a lot of (understandable) mistrust, but it's not a main part of the plot line.
It's not too tough to figure out the gist of what's going to ultimately happen and the threads of the story seem a bit disjointed at times. There's an undercurrent of finding one's way in life, figuring out the path to follow. Is this all Tommy is going to be doing with his life or is there something more? A fun, pulpy read.