Berlin Brats - Believe It Or Rot: (1973-1976)

(Ratchet Blade)

Ever since their appearance (along with The Dils!) in the Roxy Theater “Battle of the Bands” scene in Cheech & Chong’s 1978 first movie Up in Smoke (a bored audience pelts them with food, before the comics’ “Alice Bowie” steals the prize playing the hilarious “Earache My Eye”), fans have wondered about L.A. proto-punks Berlin Brats. Sadly, the group had already split, leaving just one incredible 7” single, included here: the full song from the film,“(I’m) Psychotic” (like a cousin of The Saints’ 1975 single, “(I’m) Stranded) b/w “Tropically Hot”— known from the 1978 Rhino compilation, Saturday Night Pogo. 33 years later, this 13-song retrospective finally expands the canon. Unlike contemporary CBGB bands, the Brats were profoundly steeped in The New York Dolls, Raw Power Iggy & the Stooges, and primal ‘60s Rolling Stones (which you’d know, even if they didn’t cover “Surprise, Surprise” and Stones’ inspiration Chuck Berry). Singer Rick Wilder is a fantastic, saucy cross between Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, and The AnimalsEric Burdon “(It’s My Life” is also covered), and the guitars have all the post-blues, pre-punk greatness of James Williamson with Johnny Thunders’ leads; seven studio tracks sound amazingly like Williamson/Pop’s 1975 Kill City recordings, unreleased then, while the six 1976 live tracks are Metallic “KO-esque. With only six original songs (five studio), Believe feels incomplete, but we’ll take it. Wilder and drummer Rick Sherman would form The Mau Maus and play the exploding Weirdos/ Screamers/ Germs/ Plugz/Dils/X Hollywood punk scene. But Believe is a document of an critical bridge in the bad years—a rebellious, hot, heavy, dirty rock ‘n’ roll band when that was as scarce on Sunset Blvd. as snow. - BIG TAKEOVER #68

The Berlin Brats, for those not in the know, were a notorious L.A. glam/proto-punk band fronted by Mr. Rick Wilder, who went on to greater infamy as the frontman for equally decadence-drenched punkers the Mau Maus. Ever watch the "Battle of the Bands" segment of the Cheech and Chong flick Up in Smoke? If so, you've seen the Berlin Brats. Here, in all their Stones/Dolls-soaked glory are thirteen tracks culled from demo sessions, live tapes and vinyl releases, plus a couple of bonus tracks that sound like sessions outtakes. Some of the tunes, like "Tropically Hot", "Psychotic" and "House of Pleasure", joined Rick in the transition to the Mau Maus, but I'd venture to say the bulk of the material here has never been offically released anywhere else, or at least not so in the last 3 decades. When you're talking about tapes that are, best case scenario, at least thirty-four years old, you gotta expect some rough sailing on occasion, but, for the most part, things are quite clear, coherent, and worthy of loud stereo rockin'. More importantly, another linchpin in L.A.'s underground history gets some propers, though I gotta say this release is woefully skint on accompanying text/photos to give the average listener/purchaser some context and history on the band*. Still, this clearly demonstrates that few did that sleazy rock sound better than these guys. - Jimmy Alvarado, Razorcake #61

*Note: The new cd pressing has more photos and a full bio on the Berlin Brats!