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Heavy Metal Soul

24-7 Spyz
Carlo Ontal

Strength in Numbers: The crazies of 24-7 Spyz.

24-7 Spyz likes to break all the rules of funk and rock

By Nicky Baxter

ALONG WITH Vernon Reid's Living Colour, 24-7 Spyz was black rock's flagship. But there were definite disparities between the two bands. Reid's outfit always came off as an integrationist's dream: loud, powerful and unrelenting but somehow polite and intelligent. These were Africans who wouldn't wreck the place. Not so the Spyz. Vocalist Peter Fluid, guitarist Jimi Hazel, bassist Rick Skatore and drummer Anthony Johnson were wild boys; take them to a swank soiree, and they'd turn into four (Iggy) Stooges, dangling from chandeliers, spliffs hanging from their lips. And no one, save Funk Overlord George Clinton could have cooked up a crazier gumbo of howling guitars, earth-quaking bass and zap!-pow! drums.

Then again Jimi Hazel's name--a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Funkadelic's Eddie Hazel--gives away what the group is up to. And if he hasn't quite lived up to his name, the failure is less attributable to Hazel's own shortcomings than the rigidities of a rock biz that continues to view black guitar bands as freak shows. But despite all odds, 24-7 Spyz has rarely relinquished its sense of humor. Harder Than You, released in 1989, contains the quartet's raucous declaration of intent: to rock the world of would-be funkers and boogie boyz like never before. If Hendrix had lived long enough to sign on with Clinton's funky Mothership, this is the groove he'd inhabit. Harder Than You skitters almost randomly from an inspired version of Black Uhuru's "Sponji Reggae" to an amphetamine-propelled rendition of Kool and the Gang's "Jungle Boogie."

The Spyz' second release, Gumbo Millennium, managed to bypass the sophomore jinx. The song "Valdez 27 Million?" puts the famous spill under the microscope and pronounce's it not too slick; "We'll Have Power" is a pro-democracy screed boasting Fluid's acrobatic vocals and a pulverizing sonic attack. Some of the band's social consciousness comes off as wack, particularly in "Some Defender's Memories," which is essentially a poorly argued excuse for Uncle Sam to go worldwide, military ammo in one hand, King James version in the other. On the 1991 EP, This Is ... 24-7 Spyz, the crew returned to its booty-rock basics. After several years away from the recording studio, 24-7 Spyz has just released Heavy Metal Soul by the Pound.

24-7 Spyz plays Monday (April 7) at 9pm at the Edge, 260 California Ave., Palo Alto. Tickets are $7 adv. (415/324-EDGE)

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From the April 3-9, 1997 issue of Metro

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