Published Oct 01, 2003For goodtime garage rock you can't get much better than Montreal's stars in stripes, the Gruesomes. The band played a rare hometown show to launch Gruesomology 1985-89, a compilation of "gravest hits" from their first three vinyl-only LPs that went out of print after they split up in 1990. A millennial reunion, heralded by the Cave In! comeback album, gave the band an excuse to revisit their old North American haunts, play occasional '60s revival shows and leave a geeky, gory trail across Europe. These guys get flown in to cities like Vancouver, Boston and Dusseldorf to play money gigs to big crowds, yet they can't fill a 200-capacity room in their own hometown. Pathetic, yes, but it doesn't suck to be the Gruesomes. The 100 or so punters who made it out teenage to middle-age whites and browns, Anglos and Francos, mods and rockers, punks and norms were shouting, cheering, jeering (in jest) and dancing to the band's two hit-heavy sets. Without any frills, gimmicks or noteworthy on-stage action, the foursome fed the entertainment through the tunes, happily banging out tracks like "Bikers From Hell," "Unchain My Heart," "Get Outta My Hair" and a particularly intense rendition of "Je Cherche." The sound wavered from classic garage to olde tyme R&B to '50s rock'n'roll balladry to frat party nostalgia to a more punk-inflected groove that could easily cosy up to Scandinavian upstarts the (International) Noise Conspiracy. The Gruesomes' goofball signature song "Hey!" was reserved for the encore, as was the serial rocker "Jack the Ripper," finally satisfying all the diehards who'd been shouting for the tune all night.