Part of the fun and most of the drawback in writing about music is finding comps. Tracing the roots and the blending of styles is a great game, but it tends to rob the artists of their own identities. The more traditional the music the harder it is to escape the trap in print. The J. Geils Band, George Thorogood, ZZ Top – I mean, they were all really popular but not critically respected. Mink DeVille was another, not as successful but they could have been. The big critics hardly wrote about them. Christgau dismissed them with faint praise as genre-mongers, Greil Marcus never heard of them (or the Dolls or the Heartbreakers either, he probably hated Humble Pie and The Stooges too). I don’t think Lester Bangs said anything. Only Robert Palmer ever gave them their due: “Mr. DeVille is a magnetic performer, but his macho stage presence camouflages an acute musical intelligence; his songs and arrangements are rich in ethnic rhythms and blues echoes, the most disparate stylistic references, yet they flow seamlessly and hang together solidly. He embodies (New York’s) tangle of cultural contradictions while making music that’s both idiomatic, in the broadest sense, and utterly original.”
Something very few if any critics ever say: these guys rock. It’s the crucial datum scrupulously avoided.
Mink DeVille was one of the few real rocknroll bands in the early CB’s/Max’s scene. They opened for The Heartbreakers many times and always knocked us out.
As Palmer noted, they straddled genre lines. This song has John Lee Hooker and rockabilly and Aftermath but is a thing of its own. It’s not even their best song but I’ll hear it out every time.