Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo - Walter Lure and The Waldos
There’s a temptation to hail this record as the last gasp from a dying breed. After all, it’s 24 years since the last Waldos studio album, the wonderful “Rent Party”, and a lifetime since Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers last staggered onto a stage.
Walter Lure is almost The Last Man Standing from what’s erroneously generalised as “the New York punk scene”. There was a scene but it was more than just punk (whatever that is or was) and it was pushed to the margins by the dual forces of Disney and gentrification.
Walter has lived his share of the nine lives that his old band was gifted, and maybe then some, so if the temptation proves too much not to tag “Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo” as a lowering of the curtain on a long-gone era of Lower East Side guitar sleaze, cut me some slack. A handful of other people still wave that flag.
There are a dozen songs on “Wacka Lacka…” and most contain more raunch per ounce than you can squeeze into a digital back catalogue of Strokes records. This is as you’d expect: Walter Lure – “Waldo” to his stockbroking mates – was the guitar foil to Johnny Genzales in the post-Dolls Heartbreakers, and they were the band that made the template for street-level, pharmaceutical-fuelled, bad boy, four-chord goodness. (Yes, Keef did it first but he could afford not to mix it with the masses who were copping on Norflok Street, hence the term “street-level”.)
As smack-addled and sloppy as they were, the Heartbreakers were also (briefly) The Most Dangerous Band On The Planet. They shot up (pun intended) in the nascent and multi-faceted New York punk scene, transplanted themselves to the UK and laid most of their pasty-faced, warm beer-sipping competition to waste.
A shitty mix for their debut album, in-fighting and the perennial “lifestyle issues” ultimately brought them undone. Back home in NYC after their UK visas ran out, they continued to re-convene sporadically into the 1980s, not so much for career reasons but whenever members needed to pay their rent and/or dealer.
In parallel to the rent parties, Walter Lure cleaned up his act and carved out a career on Wall Street. The Waldos were his weekend diversion. Through line-up changes (precipitated by the odd death) they became a staple on the Downtown Manhattan circuit, with their leader occasionally doing shows under his own name with pick-up bands in Europe and the UK.
But all this is history. If it’s not already self-evident that “Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo” is well overdue then you haven’t been paying attention. These Waldos are the man himself (guitar and vocals), Takanori Ichiuji (bass and vocals), Tak Nakai (guitar and vocals), and Joe Rizzo (drums and vocals).
Rather than an obituary, “Wacka Lacka Boom Bop A Loom Bam Boo” is a throwback to way past the mid-‘70s to a time whose music inspired its maker. Chuck Berry, the original ‘50s rockers, R‘n B and the Chicago blues masters all get a look-in. It’s more rock than punk and contains the essential roll.
If you’re looking for a record with the frenetic raw energy of “LAMF” you’re searching in the wrong place. “Wacka Lacka…” is energetic enough but is measured in its pace, and also has a sonic warmth, thanks in no small part to the production ear of Andy Shernoff.
Some magnificent guest sax (courtesy Arno Hhecht and Danny Ray), harmonica and backing vocals (Trisha Scott and Shernoff) round out the sound.
You get a few reheated chestnuts and a bunch of newer songs. The thunderous toms of “Crazy Kids” open the record before making way for blaring air raid guitars and Lure’s familiar sassy vocal. The guitar tone, too, is instantly recognisable.
Lyrically, it could be an ode to olden days – nobody here is a kid any more – but it resonates like a vacant yellow cab on a deserted downtown street. And “They shoulda killed us all in the nursery/They just don’t got the guts”, gets a gong for Most Inspirational Lyric.
(The song’s on the soundtrack of the forthcoming Thunders biopic. Being a cynic, I know what you’re thinking. It might be the saving grace. Let’s hope not.)
The RnB born-and-bred “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)” wraps itself up in sax and skips down the street on the back of a bouncing bass-line. The sardonic “Damn Your Soul” is held hostage by a relentless feel and lyrics about dancing on a grave, delivered by Lure’s trademark drawl.
“London Boys” gets re-cooked and comes across as a riot. The re-made “Take a Chance On Me” includes blues harp and some scorching guest guitar from ex-Waldo Joey Pinter. The cover of Joe Jones’ “You Talk Too Much” is the real ear-wig, with its blaring sax and slinky rhythm. No need to punk this one up and nobody tries. Do you really need to know where “Don’t Mess With Cupid” comes from?
You know what to do. - The Barman
When the Barman passed me this album, I said: "Hey, The Waldos. If it's 70 percent of the "Rent Party" album, it'll still be worth a good five bottles."
The bad news is it ain't quite 70 percent. The good news is it is pretty close.
This is the work of New York punk royalty so, even it doesn't hit top score, it's gonna shit on your band.
Morons probably need to be told Walter was a Heartbreaker. The Johnny Thunders kind of Heartbreaker. He pulled a lot of vocal duty and far more lead guitar duty than you might have suspected.
The Waldos are essentially Walter (Waldo) Lure and whatever other schmucks are in the room. The current bunch, Takanori Ichiuji (bass), Tak Nakai (Guitar) and Joe Rizzo (drums) acquit themselves well. It all sounds fairly Waldoish.
Ex Dictator Andy Shernoff handles production duties. By production, I guess they recorded the band live in a rehearsal studio and took the files back to Andy's basement (listed as Andy's House of Hits) to overdub. That might trigger warning bells but the end result is fine. Maybe a tad cleaner than you'd expect from a usually muddy brand.
You even can clearly make out bass and drums. I'll give Heartbreakers fans a moment to scrape themselves off of the floor.
So what are the problems? Lyrics mostly. Some average songwriting. Performance wise, Walter Lure if, given the choice, goes for the lower available note. He never was Pavarotti but he must be well into senior card territory now.
Lure written opener "Crazy Kids" sounds good musically but Waldo would have had trouble claiming to be a Crazy Kid 40 years ago. I don't want to keep pushing at the age thing but "Crazy Old Fucks" would have made for better lyrics.
And his audience would have known exactly where he was coming from.
Band-written and sung, "Lazy Day" possibly could have done with a little more work. It's essentially the Ringo track.
Stronger songs are found during inevitable forays into the more obscure corners of the back catalogue. "London Boys", "Take a Chance" and "Don't Mess with Cupid" are all perfectly fine but expendable remakes. There's some lyrical variance on "London Boys" and some unnecessary harmonica on "Take a Chance" but... you know what? It's all good.
I found it all rather enjoyable and would have shaken my weary old bones until the coronary set in if I walked into a club and saw them doing this shit live.
The trouble is this brings sod all new to the table and lacks the danger of previous material. But buy it for Waldo. No-one's gonna be giving him a pension. - Bob Short