Album Reviews

J Geils Band – The Best Of

(EMI) UK release date: 3 April 2006


I’m not sure what global event has heralded this release. Not in my memory has Ain’t Nothin’ But A Houseparty soundtracked a terrorist / disaster / famine news story. No band has cited Whammer Jammer as a critical influence of their current ‘change of direction’. Nope, not even Piss On The Wall has featured in a nifty advert for the latest ‘must-have’ product. So, it is with no fanfare whatsoever that we are treated, nay, honoured by the genius that is/was The J. Geils Band.

“My blood runs cold, my angel is the centrefold”. Never before has the full horror of seeing your girlfriend in a porn mag been conveyed in music. The heartfelt “na na na-na-na-na” chorus making for some tear-jerking moments. This is all that remains in my memory from 1982 when the infuriatingly catchy song and its equally annoying video (now this was a novelty in them days!) were everywhere.

Leaders of the so-called ‘American new wave’ they had in fact been around for 15 years with 14 albums under their belt before the big time came calling, and when it did they imploded. Led by the fantastically named vocalist Peter Wolf whose jive-talkin raps from early days as a DJ lifted him above the merely ordinary, but ran by guitarist, J. Geils, they were an innocent ‘party-hearty’ blues band, committed to ‘good times’ and easy, unchallenging themes of girls, girls and err…girls. Okay, we get the message. Methinks the blokes doth protest too much?

Taking a break from the sweaty work with their fellow all-American males, the ballad Angel In Blue shows off their feminine side despite sounding like Dire Straits, while Teresa shines a spotlight on Wolf’s aspirations to be Mick Jagger. But the cod ska/reggae of Give It To Me leaves a nasty taste in the mouth of white men skanking, badly. Maybe they were the Gorillaz of their day? I think not.

Unfortunately, due to their ‘distinctly American appeal’ they never took off over here apart from the first two tracks featured on this album. Freeze Frame following on from Centrefold (“zoom lens feeling just won’t disappear” and similar cheesey puns). The anthemic stadium rock Love Stinks (as heard in Adam Sandler flick The Wedding Singer) still raises a smile.

The rest of the fare on offer falls into two camps of being either mid-tempo blues rockers, full of squalling guitar solos or �gritty’ harmonica breaks (nasty live instrumental Whammer Jammer) or eighties fluff (Come Back, Flamethrower). Let’s face it, reviewing an ’80s compilation is like comparing suntans with a goth – in a word, unfair.

Live tracks show a band that obviously ‘rocked maan’ but introducing themselves with the declaration of “We are going to blow your face out!” before Ain’t Nothin’ But A Houseparty and then serving up a slab of flaccid blues-cock rock is a midget short of pitiful.

A band that haven’t fared well with the march of time then, but if you like your music easy-going by white men pretending they had black roots (and hell, the Rolling Stones are doing quite nicely thank you) then go ahead. If, like me your only abiding memory is of that sprightly video to Centrefold, beware!


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