All energy, all the time

I say the following at the risk of raising some ire: Thee Michelle Gun Elephant aren’t the greatest songwriters in the world.

The Japanese garage punk band has built an entire career rehashing with complete earnestness the kind of gritty rock ‘n’ roll music that paved the way to the Sex Pistols and Ramones of the world.

We’re talking stuff like MC5 or the Who or, as most often cited by rock pundits, Blue Cheer. Thee Michelle Gun Elephant don’t indulge in the kind of Pixie-esque atonal melodicism of Number Girl, or the jackhammer, hardcore assault of Bleach.

Nah. Yusuke Chiba and pals love their 1-4-5 progressions. Which isn’t to say Collection is a bad disc. Rather the contrary.

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant do such a great job at capturing that rock ‘n’ roll essence, they can be forgiven for not crafting great songwriting masterpieces.

If anything, Collection demonstrates that a band as loud and as brash as Thee Michelle Gun Elephant can’t be captured accurately on aluminum. This band probably puts on one helluva live show. (TMGE canceled it’s only Austin, Texas appearance at SXSW 1999.)

From start to finish, Collection brings together the best bits from TMGE’s many albums, and while the disc on the whole sounds incredibly homogenous, no one can deny these guys work hard for their cover charges.

“Young Jaguar”, “Hi! China!”, “Smokin’ Billy”, “Black Tambourine”, “The Birdmen” — all great tracks not for having tremendous hooks but for capturing some great, raw energy.

Collection does a great job of keeping listeners interested in a style of garage rock that might otherwise come across as somewhat retread.