The Lyres were one of my very first intros to “garage rock”, vis-a-vis their college radio hit “Help You Ann” around 1983. I heard them before I’d heard The Sonics, for what it’s worth. Yet I’m not being a deliberately-doubting Thomas when I say that this band always seemed to overindex with Europeans and Bostonians, leaving the rest of us to try and figure out why so many of their “soulful” garage/R&B songs were so goddamn tepid. This new Spanish box set of 45s attempts to help explain, and thankfully comes with a CD of all of the material for easier access to the conundrum.
Jeff Connolly of The Lyres (and howling late 70s rump-rockers DMZ before that) – the famed “Monoman” of yore – has always struck me as one those nutball characters with a definite early peak and a long, loooong stretched-out valley. (Some supporting character witness data can be found here).
I remember seeing him in a Newbury Street record store in Boston around 2000, and it was clear that he was aimlessly yammering to the clerks behind the counter while they barely half-listened, while also being clear that this was most assuredly not a unique event. People have also told me stories of seeing the late 80s/early 90s Lyres live, stories that involved on-stage fistfights, thrown drumstools and much drunken tomfoolery. I didn’t like them enough to pay to see them live. Perhaps I should have, for these antics alone.
Re: these 45s – there are some really good ones. The 1979
Ace of Hearts Sounds Interesting debut “How Do You Know” is still a wonderful monaural masterpiece, steady and raw and quite restrained, but with an unending riff that is far more tightly-wound than any subsequent work. There’s an early live version (that sounds like a demo) recorded only a couple of weeks after they formed in ’79 as well. “Help You Ann” still sounds magnificent, as does “She Pays The Rent”. Some of the more overt Sonics-worship is OK. Most of it, especially as we crawl into the early 1990s and get into “We Sell Soul” and the garage/R&B boogie, is merely adequate, or not even that – but that’s OK; if you’re European, or hail from Boston (and only if you fit this demographic), this could still be the proverbial cat’s pajamas, and perhaps worth the $60+ clams you’ll need to shell out.