These days you can't swing an extra-long microphone cable without hitting fifteen bands that claim to be influenced by the MC5 and the Stooges. Of course, there's nothing wrong with being musically indebted to the mighty Detroit twosome (no, not the White Stripes -- aren't you paying attention at all?), but when every band with a fuzz pedal drops the names Iggy and Wayne, it becomes a cliché, like a ska-punk band that claims Operation Ivy as an influence. It's 2003, after all, and there's almost 50 years' worth of rock & roll out there to influence you. You've got to bring something else to the table if you want to stand out.
Enter John Wilkes Booze. The six hardworking Bloomington, Indiana, residents not only pay lip service to a bevy of inspirational sources -- from free-jazz pioneer Albert Ayler to extramusical political pawn Tania Hearst, from Melvin Van Peebles to Yoko Ono to Marc Bolan -- but they put their money where their testifyin' mouths are, actually releasing a series of CDs that pay musical tribute to these undersung greats and christening the project The Five Pillars of Soul. (The records were originally issued as limited-edition CD-Rs; the best bits of the series will be compiled soon on a single disc.) The band melds such diverse influences into an over-the-top, alcohol-fueled full-on musical assault; if it's maximum rock & soul garage-punk you're looking for to get you through the mugginess of July in St. Louis, look no further than John Wilkes Booze. It takes five seconds to decide, brothers and sisters: Do you wanna be their dog?