It is sometimes difficult to listen to a band that broke up over 30 years ago and put their work into the correct perspective. If the music still has merit, or better yet, has remained influential to others, it’s said that the band “stood the test of time,” but if the songs are dated and the relative form is unrecognizable by today’s standards, the listener can be left with the immediate judgment that said group is a relic of a bygone era and should be nothing more than a dusty vinyl footnote to a long past generation. For many listeners, the Rezillos have fallen into the latter category more often than not. After all, were they a punk band? Were they new wave? Or were they just some strange Scottish glam rock band stuck in the '50s? The answer to each of these questions is, undeniably, yes. Attempts to categorize the Rezillos and fit them into some preconceived cliché plagued the band throughout their existence, and actually led to their premature demise and eventual reforming as the Revillos. We are therefore left with only one full-length studio recording from the original band to stand as a testament to their short career: Can’t Stand the Rezillos, a 13-track blitz of manic energy and sharp vocals, peppered with their own unique blend of kitsch.
The album starts out with a three-song run that showcases the band's strengths and flows from track to track seamlessly, pulling the listener in with grit, hooks and a level of musicianship that most wouldn't expect from an initial release. The bass-and-drum intro to "Flying Saucer Attack" leads straight into a short, to-the-point blast of guitar and then a verse/chorus trade-off in vocal duties by the band's dueling leads, Faye Fife and Eugene Reynolds. While the track's lyrical content is candy at best, the highlight of the song is the combination of the two voices at the back end of the choruses, an amazing blend of Faye's high-pitched feminine with Eugene's male snarl, made all the more potent by their thick Scottish accents. The bass playing of William Mysterious dominates the second track "No," his bass style owing as much to his '50s rock predecessors as it lends itself to emulation by many of his modern punk descendants, and firmly carries the band throughout the rest of the album. The third track, and the most well-known to many American listeners, is a cover of the Fleetwood Mac B-side "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight," a crowd-pleasing sing-along that has been covered by many punks throughout the years, but never quite with the same snarl as the Rezillos. This three-track thunderstorm is followed by the "big single" of the album: "Top of the Pops," a song that charted in the UK and did well enough for the band to gain themselves an appearance on the track's namesake television show. While the song is written well, the recording is overproduced, and the effects added to the vocals seem to distract from the rest of the song, which musically, is quite catchy, but in the end makes this one of the only underwhelming tracks throughout.
While the beginning of the album might showcase all the essential elements of the band superbly, it's the middle and back end that truly shows the diversity of the Rezillos and their full capability. "2000 A.D." is another bass-driven powerhouse, yet in the choruses there are hints of '70s guitar rock influences in Jo Callis's bending guitar, but the true genius in the track is shown two minutes in when the back-and-forth vocals return with a style and sense reminiscent of 1960s pop-rock. The influence that the sixth and seventh tracks, "It Gets Me" and "Can't Stand My Baby," have had on future generations of punks can easily be overlooked because they are two of the most accessible songs on the album by today's standards, but the raw feminine energy showcased in these songs was almost unheard of in 1978 and helped legions of punk girls to stand up and have their voices heard. Angel Paterson's thunderous drumming punctuates the Dave Clark Five cover "Glad All Over" and starts a three-track run of pure '60s feel-good pop-rock that includes the original "My Baby Does Good Sculptures" and the Gerry & the Pacemakers cover "I Like It," each punk'd up in the Rezillos' own unique way, defining pop-punk years before the term was coined. After the '50s-style rocker "Getting Me Down," the album concludes on a high note with the hard-hitting "Cold Wars" and the frantic "Bad Guy Reaction," each allowing Faye and Eugene to showcase their vocal styles in a much more straight-ahead manner then the rest of the record, hinting at what could have been if the band hadn't ended.
Listening to the album today, the production is much cleaner than other albums from the era and the tracking of the songs allows everything to flow from start to finish in a seamless fashion, which is something most of their contemporaries didn't figure out until their second or third releases. Yes, the songs can come off as being dated, but there is a very good reason for that...they were meant to be! On the day these tracks were written they sounded old, but the strength and power of the vocals and the instrumentation were the hooks that allowed the Rezillos to win over young punk crowds in the '70s, crowds that probably didn't even realize where the influences had come from, but did realize it worked and it was fun. This is exactly why this is a must-own in any music collection--not because it's punk, new wave or nostalgic, but because the songs are fun, well-written, and performed with precision. The band might be from a long-past generation and their legacy might only stand as a footnote to what punk once was in its early days, but for anyone who owns this album it will never be left on the shelf long enough to collect dust--it's just that good.