Standing on the corner with the rest of the kids
I say what is it, baby, what is it?
Let go, let go
I don’t know why you don’t just blow
It’s safe to say that The Heartbreakers live up to their name. Formed by Thunders and Jerry Nolan after the implosion of their previous band, The New York Dolls, the Heartbreakers built a reputation on intense and cathartic live shows. After finally getting a recording contract, two years after their formation, the Heartbreakers laid down a stupendous set of songs and then fractured over a tumultuous series of editing & mixing sessions. By the time this album came out, the band was no more. After blasting one of the greatest debut salvos of the punk era, the band created nothing else. And that’s heartbreaking because L.A.M.F. also lives up to its title; it slams out of the gate and over an unstoppable thirty-five minutes, it rocks, as advertised, like a mother-******.
But let me talk briefly about the best way, in my opinion, to hear this landmark album. I checked out the Deluxe Edition, a box set contain four CDs. The first CD contains the entire L.A.M.F. albums, along with a couple of extra tracks; these are alternate mixes from the marathon mixing sessions that resulted in the album. The second disc is the original album remastered; the main difference between the original remastered album and all the other alternates you’ll find here is that the bass is pumped through the roof; in some ways it’s these mixes that actually feel the most modern for specifically that reason. The third disc features demo recordings of some of the songs on the album. It also features two demos for songs that never got officially recorded; one of those, Flight, is a real outlier with its compelling Allman Brothers feel. The demos also feature Richard Hell, another seminal punk figure, who formed Richard Hell & the Voidoids after leaving The Heartbreakers; that band would end up releasing one of the 70s punk scene’s most intense battle cries, Blank Generation. And finally, the fourth CD includes various alternate mixes, of tracks from the album, mixes that didn’t quite make the cut to be on CD one, but that are also considered of interest. Did I mention that the people behind this set unearthed a whopping 300 alternate mixes in order to assemble this set?
Anyway, I think this is absolutely the way you need to hear this album. Despite the fact that some of the songs appear five or six times over the course of this box set and only a couple (the two demos mentioned above) appear only once, I listened to this entire set at least four times and I could very easily pop it in right now and listen through it again. The set of songs here is just superlative. They have the raw energy of the 70s New York punk scene, but they aren’t of the variety where every song basically has the same structure and sounds the same. The songs here are often surprisingly vulnerable in their lyrical content; Born to Lose, I Wanna Be Loved and I Love You are all quite emotional. Then there’s the unbearably intense Pirate Love, the thundering cover of Chinese Rocks, Dee Dee Ramone’s ode to heroin, the lightning fast fifties style rockers Goin’ Steady, Do You Love Me? & Let Go, the bopping, off beat All By Myself (a song Thunders himself hated for some reason). Maybe strangest and most brilliant of all is It’s Not Enough, a nuanced, surprisingly slow song about emptiness and loneliness that has a truly plaintive, country influenced tone to it. The songs are strong enough that you enjoy hearing them over and over again, especially because all the alternate mixes actually sound different. A lot of times on albums like these, I find all the different mixes to kind of be indistinguishable, but on this record, you really can hear the differences. On one mix, the pounding piano might be particularly loud; on another, the bass is through the roof or the vocal might be buried behind the thundering drums. They’re all genuinely different versions.
But I’ve gone on an extremely long time about this record, not that it doesn’t deserve it. The Heartbreakers didn’t have that bad of a run as a band. In the New York punk scene at this time, the personalities were extremely strong and the lifestyles were erratic and fractured; two years is a pretty long time by comparison with a lot of bands at the time. But it is a shame that, their lives shows being out of our ability to experience, they only left this one real document of their time together. With this deluxe set, you get to experience their music in new and different ways, which is the next best thing to some sort of windfall where we discover two or three unreleased albums from the band. It’s too bad things ended the way they did. This album encompasses raw power and energy; surprisingly emotional lyrical depth; and a wide variety of musical influences. It stands, in my opinion, as one of the greatest punk albums of all time and the deluxe edition is exactly the release it deserves. 4 stars.
tl;dr – brilliant punk album captures a snapshot of a genius group; raw passion and power, clever & surprising songcraft – and get the Deluxe Edition. 4 stars.