When Gene Simmons made his now-infamous pronouncement “rock is finally dead,” his was roundly pilloried, but that little sound bite was taken out of context. Simmons was referring to how difficult it is for musicians to make a living since the advent of digital file sharing. Rob Carlyle, lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist for The Compulsions joked about it from the stage, saying “Our new album was just released two days ago and it’s already on all the illegal download sites, so feel free to steal it.”
Getting back to Simmons’ comment, rock really isn’t dead—you just have to look a bit harder for it. It was found at The Viper Room in Hollywood on a Thursday night when The Compulsions hit the stage.
Actually, it was found, but not immediately. The set started out a little sluggish, which anyone who’s ever played in a band can relate to—it’s tough to go from zero to redline on the first song or two. In addition, Carlyle, lead guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank “Thunderchucker” Ferrer had played an album release gig in New York City on Tuesday night, so the travel/jet lag might have been a factor. On top of that the group’s bassist Sami Yaffa was unable to make the gig, so Alec Morton filled in (very ably, by the way) for him.
Looking at the band on stage, their New York City roots come across loud and clear. Carlyle and Fortus were dressed in black leather jackets, tight black pants and Converse sneakers—shades of The Ramones past.
By the time they lit into their fifth song of the evening, House Of Rock from the new album Dirty Fun, things were picking up considerably. The song could have been a metaphor for both band and club (The Viper Room is a classic dive bar where you enter in the basement and walk up dimly lit stairs to stage level) with Carlyle drawling the lyrics, eyes closed, “We got whiskey flowing like a river, we got ladies in leather lace. There’s a dude being rude and obnoxious, ‘till this chick slaps him in the face.” L.A. audiences are a tough crowd—they’ve seen everything, and they have a “prove it to me” attitude when it comes to bands. At this point The Compulsions were beginning to prove themselves, and the people were really digging it.
Everyone’s heard Long Tall Sally done a zillion times, but they’ve never heard it done the way this band did it. Carlyle’s vocal delivery converted the tune from a stale bar band staple to a sensual, risqué aural bump ‘n grind.
One of the hardest-hitting songs in their repertoire is the straight-up rocker I Was Right, You Were Wrong. As Carlyle hit the opening chord, however, nothing was right and everything was wrong, as his Telecaster was woefully out of tune. As Ferrer gamely tried to fill the dead space by tapping out a soft drum fill, Carlyle struggled to get his axe tuned up. Rather than make snide comments, the audience shouted out encouragement to Carlyle, which turned out to be a pretty cool band/audience bonding moment.
By the end of the set, Shake Hands With The Devil showed why there’s a buzz about this band. Fortus played a screaming a slide guitar solo, Ferrer showed why he earned the nickname “Thunderchucker” and the audience was rockin’ and groovin’.
Hollywood can be an odd place. Tourists visit from around the world to try and catch of glimpse of cool. Just up the street from The Viper Room, there was a crowd lined up outside one of the new, trendy clubs. Red velvet rope, paparazzi, burly doorman, limos and Lamborghinis. Women who look like models on the arms of men who look like actors. But you know what? It’s all fake. It’s all phony. The Viper Room. The Compulsions. That’s the shit. They’re the real deal. “Hanging out all night, at the house of rock. ‘Til the morning light, at the house of rock…”