Adam’s Mini-Reviews, Vol. 4- Let’s Have a Party!
There are just certain times when one isn’t in the mood for Dylan, Kristofferson or Cohen. I’m talking about the times when you just wanna crank up the volume to 11, get out on the dance floor, and maybe have a couple dozen drinks. So with that in mind I offer you three new releases to help you get shitfaced this weekend. Y’all have a great time, just don’t get caught.
We’re gonna kick the party off with Dash Rip Rock, the legendary Louisiana roots-rock band who have been going strong for over 25 years. They have always had a way of conveying a strong sense of fun to the audience and that has culminated in their most recent effort, Call of the Wild, a concept album of sorts about partying.
Following the opening Booker T.-styled instrumental, “Squeeze It In,” the record really gets kicking with “Party 101,” a classic cowpunk number and sort of a musical version of Animal House, where band leader Bill Davis declares, “I didn’t come to college to learn how to think/I came here to learn how to drink.”
After the African-tinged Tarzan tale title track, the band delivers the album’s best track, the great Faces-styled bar rock anthem “Party Hall of Fame” that name-drops everybody from Oscar Wilde to Mojo Nixon, George Jones to Paris Hilton, and Ronnie Van Zant to Betty Ford. This is followed by the punkish love song “Meth Lab Girl,” another definite favorite here and the blues-inspired “Paint the Town Red (With the Blood of Your Broken Heart).”
“Everybody’s Gettin’ Hooked Up Tonight” delivers a genuine slice of early ’70s funk, followed by the pure ’60s garage rocker “A Million Years Ago,” which is something of a warped history of rock and roll. Another great Southern rocker, “Cowbell Girl,” follows and it will be appreciated by any Americana fan, but in particular those familiar with the work of Blue Oyster Cult and Will Ferrell.
The album ends with the great upbeat “Don’t Let the Party Stop,” the slow R&B ballad “The Party’s Over,” and a reprise of “Squeeze It In,” appropriately enough titled “Squeeze It Out.” But stay tuned for an unlisted bonus track: a Sex Pistols-inspired cover of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse. As much as I hate Top 40 radio, after hearing this and Wanda Jackson’s version of Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” I’m seriously considering giving her a listen. (Your thoughts on her are greatly welcomed in the comments section.)
In the end, this is a great wonderful album that can make for great listening even when you are sober and Dash Rip Rock is one of the greatest bands working today.
The first time I heard Nick Curran & the Lowlifes’ Reform School Girl, I was completely convinced that Little Richard had released some 50-year-old outtakes under a fake name. Then I went on YouTube, found live videos of Curran and am now totally convinced that he is the top R&B singer of his generation.
Reform School Girl begins with “Tough Lover,” an Etta James cover and then moves on to the blues-influenced rockabilly “Reel Rock Party” and the title track, sort of a male version of “Leader of the Pack,” complete with interrogating background singers and a revving engine in the background. This is easily my favorite song here and is excellent proof that great pop music is still being written.
This is followed by the great demented garage rocker “Kill My Baby” and “Psycho,” which sounds like a Ramones tune as interpreted by Fats Domino. Next up are two gritty ’50s-styled R&B numbers, “Sheena’s Back” and “Baby You Crazy.” Then comes the Sun Records-meets-Bill Haley “Ain’t No Good for You.”
“The Lowlife” is an absolutely amazing Chuck Berry-inspired rocker, which is followed by the wonderfully nightmarish “Dream Girl,” an excellent display of Curran’s guitar chops. Phil Alvin joins Curran for a nice duet on “Flyin’ Blind,” a Dixie-fried roots rocker that they wrote together.
With all due respect to Brian Setzer, “Lusty Li’l Lucy” is perhaps the best ’50s rocker not written in the ’50s. It is heavy, sexual, and everything else the preachers back then tried to warn us about. “Filthy” is another excellent garage rock number with Curran displaying, dare I say it, a hint of David Lee Roth attitude in his vocal styling. The album ends with a breakneck-paced version of AC/DC’s “Rocker,” made to sound exactly like Little Richard.
After a close listen, Curran’s style is definitely influenced by much more than ’50s rock and R&B. It is undoubtedly at the forefront, but there is also a good dose of classic blues, ’60s garage, ’70s punk, and just a pinch of ’80s hard rock. But it all adds up to one hell of a record and one of the top 10 of the year.
Let’s stick with rock and roll, but move forward a few decades. The self-titled debut album from Black Robot was recorded on vintage equipment and is a great throwback to bands like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Bad Company while still retaining a decidedly modern edge. Not to mention that it was produced by Dave Cobb, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite producers.
They kick things off with the feverish, fast-paced hard rocker “Baddass,” which contains a great guitar riff, boastful lyrics, and a George Thorogood reference, followed by an excellent cover of J.J. Cale’s classic “Cocaine.” The next track, “Momma Don’t Cry,” owes as much to early ’90s grunge as it does to anything from the ’70s, but the band is able to adapt gracefully to any style.
“Girls Kissing Girls” is everything that is great about AC/DC- the kick-ass lyrics, the swagger-filled performance, the great guitar chops- rolled into one three-and-a-half minute tune. They get back to pure mid-’70s blues rock with “Money” and follow it with the Seger-esque ballad “I’m In Love” and “In My Car,” where lead singer Huck Johns manages to do a spot-on imitation of Paul Rodgers.
The title track “Black Robot” is an upbeat classic rocker with lyrics that sound as if they were written by a futuristic Ronnie James Dio (“I am machine/Made in the likeness of the Nazarene/Program me/I will destroy all of your enemies/I’m your future/I am just a number/Number 1984.”) This is followed by the Axl Rose via Tom Petty of “Love on a 45” and the great hard rocker “Dissatisfaction.”
The great Black Sabbath-inspired “23 Days of Night” is up next and the guitar playing here is truly great. “Stop the World” is another wonderful ballad with very poignant lyrics that are perhaps the best on the album. The record ends with the slightly psychedelic “Nervous Breakdown,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on the Steve Miller Band’s Book of Dreams.
This is easily one of the best pure rock bands to come out in years and I believe they will get even better. And mark my word on this: in two years, at most, Dave Cobb will be mentioned by big-name music critics in the same breathe as Rick Rubin and T Bone Burnett.