Max Garland and the Generals of the Underground – “Life’s a Gas”

Life's a Gas cover Max GarlandI don’t usually venture to the Back Alley Bar. Not only does the name make it sound like a great place to get mugged and/or raped, but the live bands they have there are usually the type that appeal to people in their late forties or older. Not that there’s anything wrong with being in your late forties; I’ll be there in less than twenty years, but at this stage in my life I’m not extremely interested in cover bands who focus solely on the year 1977 or in original acts that make The Cranberries seem like Pantera.

But when I saw that a fellow punk rocker was going to a New Year’s Eve party featuring a band called Max Garland and the Generals of the Underground I decided to check it out. I couldn’t find any of Garland’s music on the internet (not that I tried very hard), but I didn’t have anything else planned for the night and didn’t want to stay at home.

It turns out Max Garland is a seasoned veteran of the punk scene who’s played all over with any punk band I could name and put on an impressive show. It was nice to venture to a new place and check out some different talent. Garland did seem like an appropriate fit for the older crowd, but just barely. The songs put me in mind of Social Distortion mixed with surf rock instead of country.

The crowd wasn’t unanimous in their approval. When I saw a big-breasted redhead smoking a cigarette after the show I was surprised to hear her say she didn’t like the music because she couldn’t dance to it. I have to disagree with her, I found the music to be quite danceable and the only reason I didn’t shake it on the floor was sobriety. I assume her problem with the set was that it consisted of 100% original material. But the cool thing about the old-school punk Garland plays is that it always seems familiar. I’d never heard any of the songs before that night, but I had a sense of familiarity with them. I don’t say this as an insult, but I think of it as a compliment indicating good songwriting.

When I told him I liked the set I received a free CD. I just realized I forgot to get it autographed, damn.

“Hell Hill” is a great opener with equal emphasis on the guitar solos as on the vocals. “Monster Man” is a great short instrumental. “Friendship’s” features some neat start/stop riffs and a catchy, infectious chorus. Keyboard manages to outshine the guitar on “No Way Into You.” “Underground Blue” has a nice surf-guitar lead. “General’s March” is the second instrumental and it’s just as exciting and intriguing as the first. This is a great album with Garland’s eccentric vocal delivery, classic rock pianos and lots and lots of guitar.

The only problem I have with it is that it’s so short. It may be time for a more extensive combing of the internet to see if there is any more material out there.

Here’s a video of the guys playing “Friendship’s”


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