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Mike Hudson And the Pagans "Hollywood High" Reviewed

Evita Corby by Mike Hudson

Evita Corby by Mike Hudson

“I Want A Date” opens  and  oldie “(Us And) All Our Friends” closes Mike Hudson’s first album in 15 years Hollywood High and they sound like punk rock, but my punk rock, UK Punk, that open ended explosion that started in 1976 with the birth of the Sex Pistols and ended three years later somewhere in in San Francisco. There is this myth where early punk was poorly played amateurism making due  via visceral power, but really, Steve Jones? Mick Jones? Those guitarist were proto-pub rockers on a rampage. These two songs, parenthetical steamrollers,  are superbly executed classic rockers, their calling card a tightness like a machine.

And suddenly it doesn’t feel so much like 1979 any more, The guitar break on “Friends”, by producer  Loren Molinare from the Dogs, isn’t standard issue punk but a succinct and flavorful hit to the pleasure bone and the rest of the album, a perfectly timed 31 minutes, goes further afield, the title track is a blues rock nightmare track, Son Houses’s “Death Letter” a harp fueled masterwork with a rockabilly beat, “Fame Whore” (named for Hudson’s current novel) sounds like power pop two chord riffing with Lou Reed stuck on top.

So who is Mike Hudson?

Mike and his brother Brian were The Pagans, a punk rock band from 1977 who came out of the scene that brought us not just Pere Ubu, Devo and the Pretenders but also Rachel Sweet, Jane Aire And The Belvederes, the Waitresses, all those Stiff records compilation album bands ( coolest album cover ever, when you scratched it it smelt like burnt rubber!) though from Cleveland not Akron. The Pagans first came to national attention on another compilation   Punk 45: Kill The Hippies! Kill Yourself! You might remember their excellent “Not Now No Way”. A terrific sound which owed much to everyone and no one. The band broke up in an epic flood of coke and infighting and have formed and disbanded since then. Brian Hudson died in a car accident in 1991, so whatever the Pagans are in 2014 they aren’t that.

At the age of 16, Mike hit the road and two years later he joined the army but the war ended before he could get to Vietnam. Mike formed the Pagans, and after they disbanded in 1980 he formed Terminal Records.  Then according to Mike Heaton of the Plain Dealer, “The Pagans reformed briefly in 1982-83, releasing the Pink Album. In 1984, Hudson moved to Pennsylvania to work as a crime reporter at the Corry Evening Journal, a small daily newspaper.He continued publishing journalism and short fiction. He moved to New York City in 1992 to work as a literary critic at the Irish Echo newspaper.In 2000, he moved to Niagara Falls where he founded the tabloid, the Niagara Falls Reporter. He also published five books, including “Niagara Falls Confidential,” “Diary of a Punk,” “Mob Boss,” “Jetsam” and “Never Trust the World.”Hudson recently moved to Los Angeles, to write his novel, “Fame Whore,” and record his first album in 15 years, “Hollywood High.”

Hollywood High was recorded between February 2013 and April 2014 with a veritable who’s who of great musicians including Keith Christopher of The Georgia Satellites and Dio bassist Jimmy Bain. The album is an extended tribute to Hudson’s muse Evita Corby, the album cover, a picture of Evita, was taken by Phil Lynott and to be dead straight Mike should seriously consider writing her biography (though his novel “Fame Whore” is torn from this life and love) . Evita currently does dog rescue work and you gotta think that she took Hudson, sobered him up and gave him true love, a more creative form of rescue work.

“Dark Angel” is the most obvious muse out (“all the dogs in a pack” makes more sense) and it is as heartfelt as possible and I am not sure why she took it all away in the last verse though as Freedy once noted, you’ve got write about something. But I’m being difficult, it is the writer’s right to abuse their life for their art.  Still,  I prefer the heads down no nonsense tracks, “Death Letter”, “Friends” and the glorious sodden “I Just Got Up” final solutions proto-sexism (yeah, I’m thinking Stiv as well).

I haven’t mentioned “Fame Whore”, an eight minute spoken word triumph which seems to stick out weirdly, the lick is knock out and the vocal is very Lou Reed, the words though accumulate to a psychotic and beautiful vision, Hudson overdubs his voice so it is like a bipolar breakdown and overdone desire, “Baby I love you more than God”.

Everything about Hollywood High is hard knock, beatnik, in your face word reaming modern but undated personal statement heart of punk. It sounds like nothing else out there, neither of the time nor apart from  it, it is a major rocker’s statement about redemption but Hudson is too hard headed to just say it: it weaves horror to extentuate the joy, it juxtaposes the terror of life so you can embrace the dream of true love.

Grade: A-

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