Various Artists - Godspeed : A Tribute To Pierre Kezdy (Cover Artwork)

Various Artists

Godspeed : A Tribute To Pierre Kezdy (2023)

BIG minnow

Words cannot express how much Naked Raygun means to me as a fan of punk rock. I was born and raised in the Chicago area and got into the scene in the late 1980’s. I first saw Naked Raygun in August of 1990 at the legendary Riviera nightclub in Chicago. Long-time guitarist John Haggerty had left the band and had been replaced by Bill Stephens. At that point, I had never seen a Chicago punk rock band pack hundreds into a club. This was my first personal experience with how mighty this Chicago outfit was, especially on a local scale. Around this same time, John Haggerty had started the mighty Pegboy with ex-members of Bhopal Stiffs and Effigies. Raygun bassist Pierre Kezdy would later join Pegboy, giving fans additional opportunities to see this legend live. Sadly, Pierre lost his battle with cancer in October of 2020. Big Minnow Records has put together “Godspeed : A Tribute To Pierre Kezdy” to honor and commemorate his contributions to the punk rock world. The album features 14 bands from Chicago and beyond who pay tribute to Pierre Kezdy through covering various Naked Raygun tracks.

Modern punk heroes Hot Water Music open this collection with “Wonder Beer” which originally appeared on the “Understand?” album from 1989. The band takes liberties vocally on this track to help make it fit with their own style. A solid bassline is present throughout the track which helps serve the purpose of honoring Pierre. Chicago area band The Usuals pay tribute on “Soldiers Requiem” which is the lead off track off “Jettison” which was released in 1988. The main highlight of this cover is the bassline which is equally unique and interesting. This bassline carries the track for me personally. Curt Harrison delivers a solid and aggressive vocal delivery making this one of the album’s most powerful tracks. J.Robbins chose “Got Hurt” as his contribution to the compilation. This is an early demo track which first appeared on the “Last of the Demo Hicans” CD released in 1997. For those unaware, Robbins was a member of Government Issue who frequently did shows with Raygun. Naked Raygun used to cover their song “Where You Live” live, and later recorded it in the studio. I was stoked to first read of his contribution, as both Government Issue and Naked Raygun were large parts of my punk rock upbringing and education. Robbins delivered here with his signature buzzsaw guitar tone which most are familiar through his illustrious career with Jawbox. Chicago legends Pegboy contribute “Vanilla Blue” to this set. This song was written by Pierre for the single of the same name. As one would expect, this cover is as equally powerful and emotional. The tempo is a tad slower than the original which really helps to accentuate Larry Damore’s smooth vocal delivery. Swingin’ Utters are next with “Gear” which appears originally on the “Flammable Solid” 7” and later the debut “Throb Throb” album. I recall being backstage, for some reason, with the Utters in the 90’s at one of their shows at the Metro in Chicago. The band members went on and on about how they could not believe they were performing at this legendary venue that Naked Raygun built. This track has a very new wave feel to it. Early Raygun material has that post punk vibe which can be subject to interpretation if covered. Utters took that chance with this haunting cover. Chicago area punks Death and Memphis present “Treason” from “Understand?” as their contribution. Musically, this track stays true to the original. The band takes most liberties vocally through lead singer Paul Garcia. He incorporates his own style of bending the words on the end of each vocal line to help make this song their own. The Methadones return the songs back to the “Throb Throb” album through “Surf Combat.” Those from the Chicago area know that band leader Dan Schafer has much history through his bands having performed many times with Naked Raygun and their family tree. His band Sludgeworth opened the Riviera show I saw back in 1990. The instrumentation on this track is solid. The highlight would be Dan’s gruff vocal delivery which is reminiscent of his days in Sludgeworth. The appearance of Face To Face was a pleasant surprise to me upon reading the track listing. I was not aware of their awareness or appreciation for Naked Raygun, but it makes sense in hindsight. Their version of “I Don’t Know” originally from “Throb Throb” is an honest rendition. The iconic guitar intro to the song is done with extreme precision. Chicago area’s Grey Trash Aliens is the only band to tackle a track from “Raygun…Naked Raygun” from 1990. This album has always held a special place in my heart as it was their first new album after getting into the band. The main highlight for this rendition is the clarity in which the vocals are delivered. It often happens where you truly hear the lyrics through a cover than the original. I am not too familiar with this band but plan to keep an eye out. The influence of Naked Raygun and Pegboy on the Bollweevils can simply not be denied. Bollweevils have worn that influence on their sleeves proudly since inception. Their contribution of “I Remember” from the 1986 album “All Rise” showcases the impact the band has had on their career. The buzzsaw guitar playing and punchy basslines are present throughout this well-done cover. Another lesser known to me Chicago area band The Turdles offer “Rat Patrol” as their contribution. This lead off track from “Throb Throb” has been a staple at every Raygun show. This song has pretty much defined the Chicago sound through the classic “Whoa’s” throughout. The band has added some cool and raw effects to the “Whoa’s” to segregate it enough from the original to make it their own. Josh Caterer from the Smoking Popes has been known to do his own take on his own material as well as others. His version of “Knock Me Down” off of “All Rise” counts for the most unique and original offering on this collection. Josh has turned this song into an instant power pop / alt rock hit. He delivers the song with a bright and bombastic chorus which will be in your head for days. Colorado’s Stress Dreams offer “Home Of The Brave” also from the “All Rise” album. This band is fronted by Tony Kovacs who was the frontman of the Chicago area band Shot Baker who have toured with Naked Raygun. I was excited to hear their contribution knowing the history between all involved. As expected, the vocal delivery here is strong and aggressive. The band made the song their own, especially through the power of the bassline. Chicago modern punks The Brokedowns close out this 14-song tribute compilation. They contribute the mighty “Walk In Cold” off the “Jettison” album. Next to Josh Caterer, this track is the most original and unique. The same energy and tempo are kept throughout the entire track. The band adds powerful backing vocals throughout to give it a more contemporary feel to match their own sound and style. This track was perfectly fitting for closing out the album.

If you read this far, then most likely you are a big fan of Pierre Kezdy and his musical contributions to the punk rock community. Aside from Naked Raygun and Pegboy, it should be noted Pierre also was a member of Strike Under and Trial By Fire. Both bands have had their material reissued in recent years. This album is indeed a labor of love by those who have admired Pierre as a person and as a musician. This release checks all the boxes of a well-balanced tribute album. Listeners will discover new bands. Listeners will hear some of their favorite bands cover songs that were an influence on their career. Existing fans of Pierre and Naked Raygun will be pleased. Finally, and hopefully, there will be listeners who through this release discover the magic of Pierre’s influence and legacy on the music world.