The Stimulators were a band who existed in the gray area between two eras of punk rock -- their earliest performances dated from the latter days of New York Punk's first wave, while they were clearly beginning to favor the more manic and aggressive hardcore style that was taking over when they recorded their first and only album, Loud Fast Rules!, during a gig in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 1981. However, Loud Fast Rules! Never quite settles on one style, and it's never strong enough at either approach to gel into a single, unified sound. Denise Mercedes clearly wanted to be a guitar heroine, but her leads are often too flashy for maximum impact, and when the rest of the band cranks up the tempo, she often sounds as if she's struggling to keep up. Patrick Mack was a pretty good singer, but while he fits fine on the more trad-sounding tunes, he lacks the heavy vocal power the HC-oriented numbers demand. Nick Marden's bass work feels more than a little clunky on most of these tunes, and while drummer Harley Flanagan sounds pretty impressive for a 13-year-old, he made the right move when he moved over to bass to form the Cro-Mags the same year. "Hopeless" and "Crazy House Rock" recall the second string of the early British punk bands, "Dancing in the Front Lines," and "Not the Same" are hardcore without the force and focus the best bands brought to the style, and "Blind Ambition" and "$ick of George" confirm this band should have just left reggae alone. And it doesn't speak well of a punk band when they sound a lot more comfortable playing Kiss' "Rock & Roll All Night" than the Stooges' "I Got a Right." Ultimately, Loud Fast Rules! never quite lives up to its own billing -- the Stimulators aren't that loud or that fast, and they sure don't rule -- and while they had a reputation as one of the better bands on the early-'80s New York scene, this album suggests you had to be there, and on a night other than the one where they rolled tape for this release.
© Mark Deming /TiVo