Smart and heavy is a rare combination in rock today, but guitarist/songwriter Wayne Kramer laid claim to it in the late í60s when he smacked strings in the MC5, and heís never let it go. This solo CD, his first in five years, is proof of his undiminished powers. He still bristles with humor, cynicism, and rock-and-roll snarl. As evidence of this last, thereís the wah-wah intro of the title track (a spoken-word take on modern love and culture), the sheer crank of the just slightly tongue-in-cheek rock manifesto "Great Big Amp," and the classic MC5 chime-and-churn attack of "Talkiní Outta School."
Provocative lyrics abound, like "He knew all about fear/It starts with Santa Claus and ends with a police siren," and Kramer is a master of inventive scenarios. Thereís a romance between a spy and Castro in "Love, Fidel"; and the imaginary dialogue with the late hard-boiled author of The Man with the Golden Arm, "Nelson Algren Stopped By," is a gracefully crafted travelogue of Chicagoís underbelly as well as a trip through Algrenís melodious gift for prose. "I Brought a Knife to the Gunfight" does play like a metaphor for Kramerís relationship with the music business since his days with the MC5, when that band toted a howitzer to formative rockís fistfight. But at least his weapon of choice has maintained its edge.
(Wayne Kramer plays the Middle East downstairs on Tuesday July 9. Call 617-864-EAST.)