Album Review

Wild Seeds - I'm Sorry, I Can't Rock You All Night Long: 1984-1989

Wild Seeds - I'm Sorry, I Can't Rock You All Night Long: 1984-1989

There are bad singers, and then there are good bad singers. Bad singers just make you wince at their ineptitude, either in sympathy or in horror. Good bad singers, meanwhile, can get you to dig their mood so much that you don't mind the cracked notes. When you get right down to it, there's really nothing more rock 'n' roll than someone who can't sing working up the courage to get up in front of a crowd, and getting away with it. Michael Hall, frontman of 1980s Austin, Texas, band the Wild Seeds, cannot sing a lick. But he's always been a great bad singer, getting by on spirit, smarts and the ability to rock up a storm. This well-chosen 20-track best-of (with note-perfect liner notes penned by Wild Seeds soundman Brent Grulke) is about the most fun you can have this side of an enchilada dinner with a case of Big Red. Not as epic as True Believers, as poppy as the Reivers or as gonzo as Doctors' Mob, the Wild Seeds were nevertheless one of the coolest bands to call Austin home during the mid-'80s. Their sheer likability can be traced to Hall, the one constant through many lineup changes. Hall is an affable sort who has always had a mile-wide mischievous streak (the story of how he stole a golf cart and sank it in a pool at a 1984 Austin Chronicle staff retreat is still the stuff of legend). He's also a fine songwriter, with a knack for turning acid-dipped phrases aimed at women who done him wrong. The heart of this compilation comes from the Wild Seeds' 1988 masterpiece Mud, Lies & Shame, which, in a saner world, would have broken the Wild Seeds through to at least a sustainable cult following. Backup singer Kris McKay (who can sing, no question) almost stole Mud, Lies & Shame with the spectacular ballad "All This Time", which remains her finest moment on record. But there's no stopping "I'm Sorry, I Can't Rock You All Night Long," one of the funniest and most realistic songs ever written about sex, love, rock 'n' roll and growing old: "I don't wanna cause no flap/but I couldn't find my manly pride with a map...I'm sorry, so sorry, I can't rock you all night long/It's an interesting idea, baby, but it would be wrong." Maybe Hall can't rock his lady love all night long. But he can still damn sure rock the rest of us for as long as he wants.