If you know anything about this record you know the hagiography is really strong. It’s only through actually listening to the music of 1965 and before a lot (as I have and do) that you can maybe see through the canonization of this band as “punk before punk” and see the real band, a band that has benefited from some really strong revisionist history on behalf of some critics.
What we have here is quite loud and raucous garage rock. And like so much mid 1960s garage rock of this ilk, more than one person has identified this band and this album in particular as a key link in the development of punk. If you haven’t listened to a lot of 1960s garage rock, that’s likely a compelling argument. And, frankly, it’s fairly compelling even if you’ve listened to ’60s garage rock, as I have. Because, whatever else you may say about these guys, they are raw and unpolished to a degree that was perhaps unknown even within the garage rock scene at the time.
But they are hardly the only garage rock band that has been labeled as a “proto punk” band and a lot of what they do doesn’t really hold up to the standards of those other bands. Take The Monks for example. Sure, The Sonics beat them to the punch by a year, but The Monks are so much better.
My biggest problem with this record is the covers, actually. I don’t like their versions more than the originals and, for the most part, I don’t find their versions particularly revelatory. The people who are claiming this is such a landmark album seem to have not heard the originals or other earlier takes, particularly “Good Golly Miss Molly”, which didn’t need this treatment to be inspiring.
But I get it: nobody else in the world sounded like this in the studio in early 1965. And a couple of the original songs to push some lyrical envelope (topically) more than basically anything else I can recall hearing from this early. I just think the idea of this album as a lost masterpiece has a lot more to do with revisionist history – and the desire to find the definitive beginning to punk in the United States, something that does not exist – than it does with the content of the record.