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Issue: March 2008

Where Have These Guys Been?

EIEIO (Rag Tag Records)

Blasting out of the Midwest on Frontier Records, EIEIO released two albums in the late 1980s before disappearing, leaving behind a handful of voracious fans of their alt-country-meets-pop-punk motif. I particularly remember searching for their second album, titled That Love Thang, in a local music store, unable to locate it. After asking the clerk, he directed me to the "hardcore punk" section, which was all of seven cassettes strong (yeah, this was a loooong time ago).

I thought, Hardcore punk? That's not what I heard when that one song played on MTV. Well, I bought it anyway, thanks mostly to the encouragement of a friend who was equally enamored. And I'm damn glad I did. It became a love affair for me, one that never really left me - EIEIO's offbeat lyrical style and the straight-forward way in which it delivered country-infused rock, was perfect for me and was right in the wheelhouse of music fans who later loved bands like the Meat Puppets, Southern Culture on the Skids and - believe it or not - even the Jayhawks.

And then EIEIO disappeared. I assumed that was the last I would ever hear of them and it made me sad. Luckily, I was wrong.

Twenty-some years later, crooning front man Steve Summers contacted my band via MySpace.com because I had listed EIEIO as an influence. He said, simply, "Hey, saw you like our music, we have a new album coming out." We e-mailed back and forth a few times and then I bought the album.

The band members had moved on with their lives and done their thing and then pulled back together to do what rock music was built for in the first place - to have fun. Summers, sounding in fine voice, reunited with his former bandmates (all the musicians from both early albums contributed) to record 12 new songs, dominated by a stomping rockabilly sound awash in distorted guitars and high energy.

This eponymous release is different than the band's early jangly sound, to be sure, but at the same time there's no mistaking this as the same group of guys that produced irresistibly fun numbers like "Crack Crack Crack," "Go West Young Man" and "Hey Cecilie" (look up the latter on YouTube, you won't be sorry).

While new songs like "Red Hot Rebel" and "Rock 'n' Roll Legs" are primarily exercises in testing out the strength of EIEIO's amplifiers and their ability to crank out Stray-Cats-on-steroids-type jams, thoughtful tunes like "Time" and "Cold November Streets," along with down-home rockers like "1/2 Way to Carolina," recall the band's country-fried first album fondly.

I gotta say, when I heard it, I was speechless. Not so much because it is a great album on its own - it does have its flaws - but because it was so unexpected and so full of, well, the spirit of rock 'n' roll. It filled my CD player for quite some time and continues to be a collection of tunes worth going back to. And from what Summers has said in his e-mails, EIEIO is not going away again anytime soon. That makes me happy.

Welcome back, guys. Maybe this time, more people will take notice. OK, probably not, but those of us who never let go are damn glad you've come back around.

Interested? Check out http://www.eieiomusic.com - you can get the early stuff too.

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