Don't be fooled by the clever name, y'all, this is Rick Berlin (reviewed here and here), and he's carrying on his subversive musical work under cover of an acidic self-effacing group metaphor. Well, I ain't quite gonna let that happen, dammit!, 'cause he's one of those cats who needs to be far more front and center in this culture, especially as we decay with such Romanesque celerity. Like Root Boy Slim, whom I recently memorialized in Perfect Sound Forever (here), Berlin's a raucous in-your-face roustabout who holds no punches while simultaneously evoking guffaws and chortles...soon turning to chokes and gasps as you realize he's singing about someone in your family, maybe even you! THE BASTARD!!
But it's the cats who turn curmudgeonry into an art who dare the most and suffer for it. Doubt me? Well Lou Reed directly told Berlin "I wish I had your guts!", and Joan Wasser reinforced Mr. Transformer: "I think everyone wishes they had your guts, Rick!". Gary Cherone (Van Halen, Extreme) appears on two cuts in When We were Kids and claims Berlin as a major influence. More, in '73, when in the unique Orchestra Luna ensemble, Rick played at Frank Zappa's 10th anniversary party with Patti Smith and Labelle before moving on to open for Weather Report, Roxy Music, and Split Enz (obviously no one knew quite what to make of the guy!). Rumor had it that at age 12 he shook hands with Richard Nixon...and then cut that limb off at the shoulder. The former part is true, the latter isn't; you know how rumor-mongers and shitheel crtitcs like me are.
He was bandmates with Karla Devito until she jumped ship into Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell tour, and then he turned down a $100,000 deal at Sire Records 'cause he didn't dig the contractual particulars, and played an 11-year residency at Boston's oldest drag bar. And you think life's complicated? Pshaw! Yet, through it all, he never lost an inch of his irascible sense of humor, remaining a mainstay of the Boston music scene for three decades. This CD shows why. He and the band are frantic, loud, emphatic, cabaretic, rockin', ersatz, more than a little demented, and sharp as a fucking tack. When We Were Kids is as git-down as it is hilarious, rackety, and dangerous. In fact, his work, when you think about it, has the same qualities, but not the same sound, as Alice Cooper's high period, from Killer to DaDa.
Yep, he's morbid, nasty, rebellious, smart-ass, and you can't ignore what he does. Too, in line with Alice, Root Boy, and similar snarky outfits, Jesse Adams-Lukowsky can crank that thar gee-tar of his rather impressively when they let him out of the backyard and off the leash, so you get a pair of rock 'n roll python boots along with the rip-yer-lungs-out lyrics and theatrical singin'. Hell, what more couldja ask? Blood? When you're in Beantown, attend a concert and you'll likely get that too, but, in the meantime, grab this CD and stoke up the old Screw The World fires 'cause we need a lot more piss 'n vinegar in this candyass world and Rick and his nasty cronies are just the cats to serve it up hot 'n smokin'.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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