The Chrome Cranks: Stinking Up the LES Again
Keith Marlowe THE CHROME CRANKS!
By Brad Cohan
Present day LES is a bottomless pit of bombed bridge 'n' tunnel scenester wannabees, ex-Upper East side yuppie scum jogging past the John Varvatos store where punk was birthed at CBGB and trust fund frat kids living off their rich-assed parent's dime, drunkenly soiling the newly sprouted luxury condo-lined streets. But remnants of the once-vibrant, crusty downtown music scene of the late 1980's and 90's glory years are seemingly back on the upswing.
Noise-rock icons Unsane, still prowling the grimy Chinatown landscape, returned with the sonic bawling masterpiece Wreck (Ipecac) earlier this year, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion just celebrated the release of Meat and Bone (Boombox / Mom + Pop) and ex-Railroad Jerk-ster Marcellus Hall is still lugging around the battered acoustic, bringing his troubadour racket about town.
Then there are The Chrome Cranks--the brainchild of transplanted Ohioans guitarist/singer Peter Aaron and fellow ax-grinder William Weber--arguably the sleaziest, noise-blooziest punkazoid outfit, who descended upon downtown in 1992 hauling an indelible underground cred of playing with and booking the filthiest of yesteryear's iconoclastic groups.
In his native Ohio, Aaron booked gigs for the likes of Pussy Galore and Weber did time in GG Allin's Murder Junkies. When the twosome relocated to New York City in 1992, they tabbed Honeymoon Killers buddy Jerry Teel as their bass-man and, ultimately, clink-clank drums legend Bob Bert (Pussy Galore, Sonic Youth, Bewitched, Knoxville Girls) joined the fray. Chrome Cranks have not only endured the apocalyptic transformation of downtown, but survived an acrimonious breakup back in 1998 that lasted 15 years. "We ended it in a way that a lot of bands break up," singer/guitarist Peter Aaron explains over the phone. "We were going at it really hard for almost six years. We had a couple of different drummers before Bob joined the band. So, we were really working hard, touring a lot, trying to make records and we never really took a break. It just really caught up with us. Basically, everyone was not getting along and crap just kinda blew up."
Prior to its implosion in 1998, Chrome Cranks emerged in 1994 with its self-titled debut via PCP Records. Fittingly, PCP had previously unleashed records by Unsane, Foetus and Railroad Jerk and The Cranks' beast--epic lo-fi slide-blues garage-skronk guitar action and appetizingly skank-hole bass groovage topped by Aaron's Iggy-cum-Elvis-cum-Cramps gyrating histrionics--gloriously reeked of a similar Bowery and Alphabet City drug-addled, vagrant-ridden muck.
"William and I moved the band to New York right as The Honeymoon Killers was breaking up," Aaron explains. "I had known Jerry from booking them when they played in the Midwest. In some ways, Chrome Cranks was a continuation of the Honeymoon Killers and Pussy Galore. Certainly, those bands were very inspiring to William and I as far as getting serious about doing Chrome Cranks. But both those bands were pivotal. Obviously, there was guilt by association with them but I thought we were very different from those bands."
Ultimately, that dirt-blues lineage ingrained in Teel was the catalyst for fully realizing the Cranks' aesthetic through its 90's output. In its late 80's Cincinnati-era incarnation, Aaron and Weber's Cranks leaned towards noise-poppy fare. "Getting (the bluesy sound) was part of it when Jerry joined the band and maybe it was an epiphany (we had) where we were always loved the Stooges, the Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Birthday Party and Suicide," Aaron says. "All those bands had a fractured blues element to what they were doing."