You Again?: Canned Heat, "Finyl Vinyl"

After more than 15 years, Canned Heat is back with a new album, leaving Jeff Giles to whisper hoarsely: "You again?"

You Again?: Canned Heat, "Finyl Vinyl"
Break out the Sterno, bitches

It would be reasonable, I believe, to assume that most people who are aware of Canned Heat are also under the impression that the band ceased to exist at some point, likely somewhere between, say, 1979 and 1990. It would probably even be reasonable to assume that 1990 might actually be an overly generous guesstimation for the group's expiration date, given how briefly their commercial flame flickered and how enthusiastically they attempted to channel (some might say stole from) the blues masters of a bygone era. Even during their earliest days, they did everything they could to create the impression that they were from the past; watching them at Woodstock must have felt the way it does to watch grainy footage from the festival now.

But no matter how reasonable it might be to assume any of the above, the truth is that Canned Heat has remained a going concern since the first lineup emerged from singer Bob Hite's Topanga Canyon home in a drug-and-alcohol-induced haze way the hell back in 1965. A sort of Blues Brothers before the Blues Brothers, the band coalesced around a totally earnest and completely caucasian enthusiasm for old blues records; as has perpetually been the case in the entertainment industry, their pale Xerox of the source material proved much more palatable to label execs, and within just a couple of years, Canned Heat was releasing its debut LP on the heels of a well-received set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

A few hits followed — "On the Road Again," "Goin' Up the Country," and "Let's Work Together," to be exact — and you've doubtless heard them all, as they've proven deathlessly popular not only among radio program directors, but film and television soundtrack producers as well as folks responsible for commercial song placement. The first two were shameless lifts from blues classics, the second of which didn't even bother to credit the original writer, and the third was a cover, all of which goes some way toward explaining why Canned Heat's flirtation with mainstream popularity was basically over by 1970. Sincere as their appreciation for blues music may have been — and as well as they may ultimately have learned to play it — they were probably always destined to be perceived as something of a novelty act.

They were also, it should be said, a pack of degenerates.