Making a clean and dirty getaway

You can’t explain music, especially not garage rock, with words — you have to be there, jumping up and down with the bass notes thumping your chest, liquored up without a care in the world, your brain buzzing from drugs or guitar feedback.

There may have only been 30-some shows in the 14 months since The Makeout Room crawled out of the garage and laid it out, unashamed — but it’s been a thrill ride from start to end. The first time I saw this band, they rocked with such an infectious, sticky-sweet lust that their ardor, not unmiraculously, precipitated a spontaneous makeout session. It began on the dance floor and moved to the stage, delirious fans grabbing kisses mid-song while the band kept the backbeat driving mercilessly.

This is where music meets the people, and a whole boardroom of corporate, commodity-culture types won’t ever be able to package it. The Makeout Room is the soundtrack to that lost weekend, lost night, or, at the very least, that hour or so spent losing yourself in pure emotion blasted out in three chords or less: This whole damn town won’t mean a thing, tomorrow may never come, and yes, thank you, I will have another beer.

Tomorrows do come, unfortunately, and when it’s all over, it may be a long night before The Makeout Room sees a new day. The band — currently numbering Gabe Johnson, Jeremy Power, Todd Kelly, Jeremy Boger and Paul Conrad — leaves nothing in its wake but some hazy memories and a disc titled Modern Love that it calls “clean and dirty.”

But then, garage rock is nothing if not ephemeral. It’s hard by nature to trace the origins of the sound: Some experts point to the Northwest strains of the Sonics and the Regents, some herald the Trashmen from Minneapolis — whose B-side “King of the Wild Surf” may be the greatest rock ‘n’ roll 45 of all time. Or perhaps it was Shadows of Knight or The Monks or The Seeds.

Others might simply bleat “Louie Louie,” that time-proof, beer-soaked aria churned out by thousands of bands all over the world, its simplicity so profound it practically plays itself. The turmoil of the mid-’60s British Invasion inspired American youth, and later the world, to imitate their heroes. What resulted was amateurish, three-chord repetition mixed with teenage sexual angst — a sound far more scintillating than the overproduced stuff that inspired it.

Every day, in some neighborhood in this world, there are two or four kids strapping on guitars for the first time together in some garage or basement, howling about that girl at school who won’t talk to them, deflecting irritated protests from parents or neighbors. This enduring cycle has brought The Makeout Room to what some local critics call the end — their leader is moving out of town indefinitely. A new band, however, has already sprung from the ashes.

The Low Numbers, featuring members of The Makeout Room and the Merle, will debut their “music in the fine tradition of American rhythm and blues” on the very stage that marks the end of the great — if brief — era that was The Makeout Room.

As with the legendary Ramones, some will claim that The Makeout Room was too simple, too unsophisticated, without lasting merit. Which simply makes them a perfect example of their genre. Garage music is meant to be enjoyed, not analyzed. If you don’t get it, it’s because you’re thinking about it.

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