On a cold Thursday night last January, I headed out on the frigid streets of Toronto to spend my time and money at a steamy late-night record sale. I always have a list of albums to look for but when I stumbled upon an original pressing of The Gruesomes’ Gruesomania, the list went out the window. It was fate, I imagined, that had brought me to this album – a record and band that I had fallen in love with in the early 2000s as a DJ on college radio in Winnipeg. Besides the ratty old copy at the station, I’d not seen an original pressing of the LP in the wild. Needless to say, I walked away from that record sale with a treasure I’d never imagined possessing and a smile a mile wide.
The Gruesomes, named after a gaggle of monstrous neighbors that moved in next door to the Flintstones, were formed in 1985 by a bunch of teenaged kids looking to have a good time. Coming out of the mod scene that was flourishing in Montreal at the time, the band quickly became a staple of college radio and gained a following in Canada, the US and Europe, earning them a place as one of the seminal Canadian bands of garage rock – a genre that has had more revivals than… well, just about any other rock genre. Relatively short-lived as a band, The Gruesomes released three full-length albums before disbanding in 1990, the second – and arguably the most realized – was 1987’s Gruesomania.
With songs like Leave My Kitten Alone, I’m Glad for You, Way Down Below, Time’s Gonna Come, and Je Cherche (a cover of the 1967 song by fellow Quebec garage rockers, Les Lutins), Gruesomania bounces from one dirty, kitchy rock n roll gem to the next. Combining swagger and snotty attitudes with reverb, fuzz and classic garage and surf rock, the band channels The Sonics, The Ramones, and every obscure 60s garage band you can shake a stick at.
While their music is never serious, The Gruesomes have proven themselves to have serious staying power. Capitalizing on repeated garage rock revivals over the years, the band has reformed several times to record, tour and play over the last two decades. In 2003, Sundazed Music released Gruesomology 1985-1989, which introduced the band’s original recordings to a new generation of garage-loving kids. In 2000, the band released an album of new recordings, Cave-in!!, as well as a live album, Live in Hell, in 2007. And to the delight of fans, Gruesomania was issued on CD by Ricochet Sound in 2008, and rereleased on vinyl – including a limited-edition “gruesome green” version – by Artoffact in 2015.
More than 30 years since its original release, Gruesomania sounds as energetic and raw as anything released in the latest rounds of garage rock revivals. Check out the album here:
To make a long story short, that Thursday night record sale is on again tonight. This time, I plan to leave my list at home and just let the Fates decide – they proved themselves to be worthy allies last year and I can’t wait to see what they put in my path this time!