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“Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs” was the fifth Groundhogs album released on Liberty/United Artists and it concluded the run of the classic trio comprising Tony McPhee, Pete Cruickshank and Ken Pustelnik (Pustelnik left several months after its early ‘72 release) and it was every inch a classic. Following in the established Groundhogs tradition of aggressive, rough hewn playing that nevertheless flowed evenly into a welter of swiftly executed time signatures zigzagging against the speed of sound, or then dropping off entirely as though seeking to disrupt the tempo only never does but kept the beat all at the same time, “Who Will Save The World?” was guided by the splintery SG Gibson guitar playing and songwriting of Tony (T.S.) McPhee.

Just as their previous album “Split” had focused on the psychological ills of the times so did “Who Will Save The World?” set about tackling the major problems facing the world under the guise of comic book super heroes whose abilities to vanquish overpopulation, war, pollution and other such sundry blights on humanity were only matched by their collective musical prowess. It says so when you flip over to the back cover and read the comic panels inked by no one less an artist than ‘The Nefarious’ Neal Adams of DC, Marvel fame:

”It is said in the hall of fame of super-heroes that the rock group GROUNDHOGS might even accomplish more with music than the superhero GROUNDHOGS will, with all their muscle…”

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And accomplish they did: stating their case with four tracks per side that all shift in approach and feel ranging from bulky to transcendental, tragic to hopeful and when their slowburn fuses get lit at the drop of a hat, the combustive properties of Groundhogs in heat explode within thickets of clotted bloozy raves and roiling psychic turbulence stabbed by the forked, greased lightning of the counterpointing McPhee guitar throughout. It was also here where McPhee embarked in positioning keyboards to a higher capacity role, which only graced the proceedings in a fashion that wholly integral and complimentary to the proceedings and not just as vogue icing, either. For when the stark and foreboding mellotron piercings appear in the opening track “Earth Is Not Room Enough” a flanking gateway of clouds slowly closes in front of the only patch of blue sky and cuts off the last ray of sunlight forever. What this powerful middle passage snaked out from is a duel between McPhee’s quickly strummed get-up-and-gotcha guitar riff and contrasting riffs chipping away at the atomic centre that the elastic bass and drums plays as tight as possible. Wafting currents of filtered amplifier noise ushers in the mid-tempo death boogie, “Wages Of Peace.” The pace is overburdened by a sackful of trouble in a place where those dark, psychic clouds the mellotron summoned in the previous song have chosen to remain: reducing McPhee to lament defiantly through choking sulfur fumes that there are “so many ways to die…so invent some more” at the tyrannically overcast heavens (as) above, and the polluters (so) below. “Body In Mind” opens with a single guitar brazenly hacking out a saw-toothed riff that is jarring as hell and barges in out of nowhere while daring to go everywhere at once. McPhee gruffly spits out a couplet of hawk-eyed social observation “Greed takes place of trust/love gives way to lust” against an endless supply of multi-tracked guitar riffs that contrapuntally carry and force the melody down a whitewater river to hit every visibly jutting rock at top speed. Cruickshank and Pustelnik contribute to these raging rapids with flexible intensity, maintaining acutely aware to every melodic and rhythmic change. A trapdoor false ending opens, sending the track unpredictably and just as rudely back into the jerking, involuntary response of the opening riff. And with an assembled multitude of guitar tones to choose from what does McPhee do but switch between them all — all over the place until one of the most complex moments of the album fades off into the howling beyond…

-The Seth Man, full review here

rs zs


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