A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,
our Michigan Correspondent
So, if I have a clear memory from 1992 (and I guess I still have a few…), it is the first time I pulled the Mexican R’n’B record from its sleeve, put in on the turntable and dropped a needle on it… pure, unadulterated sonic joy. I was bouncing all around Studio B at KZSC. I’d really liked the Bevis Frond’s psychedelic noodling and pretty much everything from the gloriously low-fi world of Billy Childish, but, jeez, The Stairs, they satisfied my 1967 jones, they hit the sweet spot of my retro-60s fanboy affections… and not taking themselves at all seriously made it SO much better.
I’d been well-primed for The Stairs by a raft of bands – mostly from New England and many with some kind of tie to the Boston scene in the early 80s. The Chesterfield Kings, The Fleshtones, The Fuzztones and The Real Kids come to mind… but, for me, the cream of the crop was The Lyres. The Fleshtones played at my college and blew the roof off the old library we used as an indie venue, but I had to go into Philadelphia to see The Lyres.
I have no idea where I saw them, just that it was arctic outside and hellish inside that night. The opening bands were local and terrible – much like the “metal” bands my now-wife and I saw open for Pere Ubu in San Francisco a decade later – but the Lyres started off on fyre and never let up. Dancing wasn’t like a mosh pit but it had that energy and sweat, a lot of sweat. The songs came fast and furious until we were just about broken… and they’d save us with a ballad, maybe two, before testing our stamina with another blitz of ever-accelerating songs. My clothes almost froze on the way back to school – leaning back into the rear seat was like propping myself up on ice – but, before my knees went bad and my wife had two kids and I put on weight, I’d have done it again in a heartbeat.
Their albums have a ton of energy but their shows were radiated garage band boy-dom. We knew it was stripped down, we knew it was kinda dumb, but my friends and I were 19 or 20 and it was about girls – those we desired, those who’d dumped us, those we desired because they’d dumped us, the ones we’d dumped but desired to have desire us and every other permutation and combination of those things imaginable. It was rock… and there were young women about.
The Lyres definitely had a peak period there in the early 80s, though they held on for quite a while and reformed once or twice but, lord, what a peak. There’s something about the world of the Nuggets, Pebbles, Boulders and other collections of independent “garage” music from the 60s – whether distilled into Los Angeles power pop variants, exploding into a Detroit-driven fury, or looking back romantically to a small set, a bass, and guitar and a singer out front – optimally one who can play organ/keyboards – that never dies, periodically flourishes and is a boatload of fun.
If you still need a frame of reference, think of The Sonics, whether their original 1960s or more recent 21st century work. Here’s to the Lyres and the world of post-punk that sought pre-punk garage punk joy.
Because they were primarily about live gigs, their records couldn’t contain everything they played, whether originals or covers and so this selection is from a smaller number of albums than usual. It happens…
The Lyres – You’ll Never Do It Baby – from Lyres Lyres (1986)
The Lyres – I Love Her Still – from Lyres Lyres (1986)
The Lyres – You Won’t be Sad Anymore – from Lyres Lyres (1986)
The Lyres – Not Like the Other One – from On Fyre (1984)
The Lyres – Love Me Till the Sun Shines – from On Fyre (1984)
The Lyres – Getting’ Plenty Lovin’ – from Shitkickers (1995)
The Lyres – Soapy – from On Fyre (1984)
The Lyres – Help You Ann – from On Fyre (1984)
The Lyres – She Pays the Rent – from the collection, Lyres (1981)
The Lyres – Knock My Socks Off – from A Promise is a Promise (1988)