The never-ending debate over who “invented” punk is not only tiresome but increasingly convoluted, and seems to have devolved into a struggle to assert the importance of some band or another—at this point it’s got little to do with how good the music was. Over the past couple years the Guardian
, among other outlets, have advocated for an obscure garage group from Peru called Los Saicos, who started releasing music in 1965—but they seem to be forgetting that the Sonics
got there first, dropping their first seven-inch, “The Witch,”
in late 1964. One of its B sides (it came out in a couple versions) was called “Psycho,”
and that title says a lot about these protopunks from Tacoma, Washington—their nasty, primal rock ’n’ roll must have sounded completely insane to the squares who were still calling the Beatles “appallingly unmusical.”
With their unhinged howling, cannonlike drumming, ragged sax blasts, spooky keyboards, and demented guitar riffs, the Sonics sound nuts even today—when one of their tunes is bearing down on me, I still sometimes freeze like a deer in headlights. “The Witch” and “Psycho” both appear again on the 1965 LP We Are the Sonics!!!
, my favorite album from the group’s initial run (plenty of compilations came out after they broke up in 1967), alongside covers of now-familiar pop tunes, including “Do You Love Me,” that sound just as raw as the originals. The Sonics have at least as much right to call themselves the godfathers of punk as any other claimant to that title, but they’re a killer band with or without it. They reunited most recently in 2007, and the five-piece lineup playing tonight includes three original members: guitarist Larry Parypa, saxophonist Rob Lind, and inimitable screamer Gerald “Jerry” Roslie (who also plays keys). —Leor Galil The Cynics open; Todd Novak of HoZac Records spins.