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Gotta Survive *

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Performer Notes
  • It's pretty extraordinary for a band who never even released a record to have a two-CD package prepared in their honor more than 30 years after they disbanded. That's what you get with this double-disc set, largely devoted to unreleased recordings by Public Nuisance from late 1968 and early 1969 (two rare 1966 garage folk-rock singles by the group from which they evolved, Moss & the Rocks, are also included). Is it worth such unusual archival care? Yes, though in truth its appeal will mostly lie with aficionados of garage-psychedelic crossover sounds, rather than more general enthusiasts looking for classic lost '60s rock. Public Nuisance made for the most part above-average, though not groundbreaking, insouciant garage psychedelia with raw and idiosyncratic, but not sloppy, blends of punk, pop, folk-rock, and songs that reflected both the angst-ridden confusion and exhilarating highs of the era. If you're looking for ballpark comparisons, you might think of other California bands like the Lollipop Shoppe (or more distantly the Music Machine), who tapped into some of the boundary-stretching experimentation of psychedelia while retaining a surly, defiant attitude. The Lollipop Shoppe were better (and better produced), frankly, but Public Nuisance were respectable, with some unpredictable twists to their tunes and chord progressions, odd insertions of harpsichord and theremin, and grinding, ominous, distorted guitar riffs. Some cuts -- like "Small Faces," "Magical Music Box," "Thoughts" (with its alternation of breezy harmonica and exultant fuzz guitar), and the anti-war "Strawberry Man" -- stand out as quite imaginative. Others are only okay and closer to the average also-ran bands in the genre, though even here Public Nuisance stands out for the wealth and diversity of their original material. Incidentally, one of these songs, "Going Nowhere," is an unfinished backing track, completed with new vocals and lyrics done shortly before the release of the CD; for purists, the naked unfinished backing track is also included. ~ Richie Unterberger
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