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Hurricane Charlie - "Maelstrom Boogie" album review

Towards the end of September, when everything got really screwy for me, Mirkwood Recordings released a pretty cool garage punk/blues album called Maelstrom Boogie by a band I have never heard of, Hurricane Charlie. The album is a live recording from, I think, earlier in the year. It is not dated, so I'm not sure. I'm all about raw, live albums, so I was pretty excited to listen to this. Now, finally, here is my review.

First off, the cover art to Maelstrom Boogie looks like a vial of poison. I like the look of the text a lot, though I am not particularly fond of the colors used. The image is creepy and reminds me of tarot cards. It's kind of cool and fits the dark blues tone of the songs.

Maelstrom Boogie starts strong with "Death Rattle/Damage Baby", which is a cool name for a song. It's a stupid song with wild guitars and crashy drums and like no lyrics, so it's all pretty good. It's just a two-piece band, but they do a good job here. The vocals really remind me of Alan Vega of Suicide. "Rue the Day" is the next track. It's got really rough, sorta bluesy vocals. I like the guitar line and the snappiness of the drums. "What's the Matter Now?",  originally by The Oblivians, starts with a loud yell, and then Hurricane Charlie starts into a song with more of a dance beat and vocals that really recall Howlin' Wolf or Bo Diddley. The song grew on me as it went along, and I really liked it after the first half. The guitar falls apart mid-solo to leave a sparse drum and vocal pairing that springs back into full gear soon. I like everything about "Leave Me Alone". The guitar has a cool start/stop thing with a cool solo, and the vocals are really rough. "Goin' to the River" sounds like a more normal version of Cleveland's electric eels combined with lyrics from the blues catalog of songwriting. It's a cover of a song by The Gories. Next is another cover, this time by The Standells, "Dirty Water". This version of the famous song sounds a little like Sex Pistols covering Chuck Berry. It doesn't have the heaviness of the original, but it isn't bad. The seventh track is the third cover in a row, John Lee Hooker's "Burnin' Hell". This is the longest track on the album, vastly exceeding the earlier short punk speed bursts; this one is over 6 minutes! It starts a little clumsy. I like the dark lyrics quite a bit. There is a strange bell on this track before the track goes into that semi-dance punk beat that the band did earlier, and then the gravel vocals turn into a fierce instrumental section that gives the song some much-needed energy. Though there are some cool shifts in tone, the song is pretty samey overall.

"It's Gonna Bleed" is not a cover, and I don't particularly like it. The guitar does some cool stuff in the middle, but it's otherwise pretty basic. "Spoonfull" is a misspelled Willie Dixon/Howlin' Wolf cover. I wasn't particularly fond of this one either. The roughness really hurts the swing of the original, despite Howlin' Wolf's similar vocal style. One of the last songs is "Thunderbird ESQ". It's okay. I don't like all the counting, but I do like the chorus part and the single-note solo. Suicide's "Ghost Rider" is done kind of poorly for the penultimate song, though like with the other songs, it builds over time, combining with Rollins Band's "Black and White" and another Suicide song, "Rocket USA". I really like these songs better with Martin Vega's synths. The end would be much better with less cymbal crashes and held guitar notes. The last song is "Under the Sun", and it's pretty good.

Maelstrom Boogie is nothing new, but it's a good addition to the garage punk genre. I enjoyed listening to the wild instrumentals and sawmill vocals, though sometimes I felt like the instruments were lacking. The songs are all over the place, veering wildly throughout the short time frame most of them exist within. It's definitely not the most consistent album, but Maelstrom Boogie still gets a Good. Thinking about this band overall, it would be cool to see Hurricane Charlie play with Pittsburgh's own Spectres. That's something to hope for in the future I guess.