"96 Tears" might be the greatest song in the history of rock & roll. It sounds like hyperbole until you hear it, really hear the song loud and clear — not karaoke'ing it, not on oldies radio, not in a bad movie's soundtrack. Go ahead and sample it now: scroll down to track 12 and hit play, turn your speakers up loud. Sounds good, right? The song straddles restraint and a subtle wildness, like the high school bad boy tucking in his shirt when he meets his prom date's parents, his manners sweet and kind but a wolf-like glint in his eye, his body poised to devour his date, to prey on her waiting, sprawled body. It's that flirtation, that tension, that "96 Tears" so perfectly captures, the reason it was one of the biggest hits of the '60s. That and the organ sound, anyway.
So what beyond "96 Tears," then? Here it gets a little dicey. None of the songs are bad, but plenty are generic, basically all sounding like Nuggets-type garage rock. Standouts include the Seeds-like "Got To," an organ-ic, staccato number; "Hangin 'on a String," a flourished, too-fast ballad; and "I Need Somebody," which isn't all that far behind "96 Tears" musically, but lacks the big-hit aura.
As rock & roll's first ever (and maybe still its biggest) Latino-rock band, ? and the Mysterians absolutely rise above their somewhat-anonymous garage-rock brethren, both musically and in terms of popularity. This collection of the key tracks goes a long way to explain why.