In the fall of 1991 my buddy Steve raced over to my house barely able to contain his excitement. Why? Because in his clutches was the self-titled debut album from SAIGON KICK who he had just seen open for RATT (and blow them off the stage!) the night before. He raced up my stairs like a crazy person and simply demanded I put this disc on. Now, knowing Steve as well as I did/do it takes a LOT to get him this excited and on those occasions the bands always lived up to the hype (LOVE/HATE, anyone?), so I was more than happy to oblige.
Well, I certainly wasn’t prepared for this! After a Middle Eastern-tinged intro the band tears into “New World”, drummer Phil Varone laying down a tribal rhythm for the serpentine vocals of Matt Kramer accentuated by the thick as a brick riffs of Jason Bieler and bass lines of Tom Defile. “What You Say” also shows that Bieler is more than just a six-string shredder and this is our first glimpse of the amazing singer he is (eventually taking over lead vocal duties). Easily one of my top SAIGON KICK tunes…period. Next up is the punk-infused aggression and clever wordplay of “What Do You Do” and then more thick-assed riffage on “Suzy” alternating with some of the coolest harmonies heard this side of the Atlantic. Bieler, Varone, and Defile are in complete lockstep on this and every one of these 14 tracks, and the solo is incendiary.
There’s a dark, moody atmosphere that surfaces quite often on the record and “Colors” is our first glimpse of this. It’s also another song in which you have no idea where it’s headed making it even better. Another one of my absolute favorites follows with “Coming Home”. That riff could cut glass and I suspect this song was largely responsible for blowing the speakers in my ’88 Sundance as there was just no way to listen to it on anything less than 10. I got quite the U2 vibe off of “Love of God” the first time I heard it, and given my decades-long love affair with Bono that made it an immediate standout. It’s another one that I can’t listen to just once, even now as I write this. “Down By the Ocean” is really hard to describe other than it’s FUCKING BRILLIANT!! “Sweet Larissa wants Johnny, but Johnny thinks he’s gay” is still one of the best lines on the album, and I spent hours in the Plymouth singing both vocal lines until I had them down. This band is definitely responsible for making me place an emphasis on harmonies in my own bands later on.
We get another short but sweet number in “Acid Rain”. Not only is it ballsy and heavy, but at only 1:39 it was the perfect song to put at the end of one of my patented “Awesome Mix” tapes made on the trusty Maxell XL II 90’s of which there were many. Some of ‘em are still in a box around here somewhere. And then suddenly, from some other dimension comes “My Life” featuring more golden harmonies, a BEATLES-esque melody and HOLY SHITBALLS, KAZOOS???? I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Steve said he couldn’t believe it when they whipped ‘em out for the song the night before. Can’t remember if that was what sold him or not, but they had a fan for life in me at that point! Mini-Amps is in here rocking back and forth to it as we speak, FYI. Switching gears, anger is on the menu for “Month of Sundays”, Kramer growling like a demon and the band just letting ‘er rip, especially Bieler on the solo and outro. “Ugly” keeps the intensity high, again showing that SAIGON KICK is just as influenced by punk as they are metal and they combined the two in a way that no one has been able to do since. No one.
So after 12 tracks that go from sonic beat downs to up-tempo hooks and back again our first real change of pace comes in the slow and beautiful “Come Take Me Now”. It’s stripped-down and raw and totally stands out from the pack. Closing things out is the groove-laden “I.C.U.” and as soon as that’s done your next move is for the REWIND or REPEAT button depending which format you had. Me, I rewound this thing so often I went through multiple taped copies. SAIGON KICK put out one of my favorite debut albums of all time that year, and I truly believe it belongs on a list of the Top 10 Greatest Debut Albums EVER. So there it is…SAIGON KICK…Classic Album. Classic band. ~dc