Classic spin: The Lyres’ “I Want to Help You Ann” is perfect 1980s garage rock

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The Lyres’ “I Want to Help You Ann” stands out as an excellent example of garage rock. From its instrumentation to the vocal delivery, to the lyrical content, “I Want to Help You Ann” is high-energy rock ‘n’ roll that uses all the traditions of garage rock to endure more than 30 years later.

About The Lyres

The Lyres are an organ-based rock band that formed in Boston in 1979. Their first album was released in 1981. With what could be described as a revolving door of members, The Lyres remained active into the 21st century. One constant member is organist, Jeff Conolly.

The bulk of the band’s work was produced between 1981 and 1993. In addition to studio albums, The Lyres’ songs appear on a few compilation recordings. Even though in most parts of the US the band enjoyed a cult or underground following, the band’s work still garners audiences’ attention online.

The Lyres and the garage rock tradition

Garage rock – – that pop music tradition that involved distorted, heavy instrumentation and shout-y, not always clear, lyrics. Often guitars and drums were the only instruments, but organs became part of the soundscape, too. Bands like Question Mark and the Mysterians, The Litter, Blues Magoos, Paul Revere and the Raiders, MC5, The Stooges and numerous others made a lasting genre out of a form that is heavily associated with the 1960s.

Garage rock laid the foundation for what would become punk rock. A number of post-punk bands are considered part of the modern era of garage rock. Arctic Monkeys come to mind. But before Arctic Monkeys, but after The Kinks and The Litter, The Lyres brought the sound of shimmering distortion and heavy guitars and drums to life for an audience that might have overlooked the sound were it not for the genre’s relationship to punk rock.

That The Lyres included “I Want to Help You Ann” on two albums and it has been included on compilation recordings speaks to the song’s unique ability to entertain.

The Lyres and the appeal of “I Want to Help You Ann”

Since I was not old enough to have been in college during the heyday of college rock, I had to wait a couple of decades to fully appreciate all the music I had missed. With no airplay of The Lyres’ music where I grew up, I had to wait for the release of the four-disc set, “Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the ’80s Underground.”

Recently, I have discovered that “I Want to Help You Ann” exists in two forms. One is slower and puts the guitar at the front of the soundscape. The other gives a prominent place to the organ. I refer here to the latter.

The Lyres shared space with bands and performers like Mission of Burma, English Beat, Kate Bush, Dead Kennedys, and numerous others. Drawn to the fourth disc because of Minor Threat’s “Straight Edge,” I decided to listen to “I Want to Help You Ann.”

There is no escaping the allure of that shimmering, distorted organ blended with guitar. That soundscape is underscored by the primal pounding of drums. On the first listen, the music sounded as though it was being shaken out of somewhere – – a jukebox, the ether, it was almost impossible to tell. On top of everything is the vocal delivery. The voice sounds distorted, too, and the pace of the singing is fast. If a person was not listening carefully, a number of lines sounded run together. But they were worth parsing because the chorus was clear. Why did the narrator want to help Ann? And why did this song remind listeners of “96 Tears”?

The frantic energy that is in every shimmery, shaken beat of “I Want to Help You Ann” pulls audiences in. It is the energy and the sound that also makes garage rock effective party music. Further, the song’s energy and pace are further reasons why “I Want to Help You Ann” exists as a superlative example of garage rock.

 

 

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