Wayne Kramer is now 50-plus, but when we saw the former MC5 guitarist at a speaking engagement a few years back, he was still buff, impassioned, articulate, profoundly macho, and profoundly committed to his leftist politics. In short, he was Henry Rollins with a better reason to live.
True, Rollins has lately been known to kick out the jams pretty powerfully in concert. But even when inventing hardcore punk in California's suburban wasteland in the early '80s, Rollins never suffered the kind of unrelenting institutional harassment that plagued Kramer from the mid-'60s, when he helped form the MC5, to the late '70s, when he was finally sent to jail on drug charges. And for all of hardcore's anarchist posturing, Rollins never enjoyed the kind of artistic connections that united and enriched the work of so many radical artists in Kramer's day.
Together, those experiences have given Kramer a combination of steely urgency and cultural breadth that few performers can match. His July 16 album, Adult World (MuscleTone), is far from life-changing, but from its jazz-beat poem about Nelson Algren to its slobbering ode to Cleveland punk to its tender love ballad from the young Fidel Castro to his bourgeois baby, it's honestly life-affirming, no matter what your personal reasons for trudging on.
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