Stray Cats at 40 deliver new tracks with vitality

First Album in 26 Years on on Mascot Label Group

Hey kids, spread some wax on your chevvy like it’s 1959, 1979, 2019, comb back that quiff (hang on, you can’t do that anymore, unless you’ve weathered well in the hair department like Brian Setzer) check out your tattoos (wishing you hadn’t been so quick to immortalize now ex-girlfriends) and squeeze into some drainpipes (ouch, tight fit these days); your all-time favourite rockabilly band has reformed and not only are they touring for your pleasure but they have produced a brand new spanking album of 12 original numbers entitled “40”, their first in 26 years.  You’ll be pleased and relieved to learn that these cuts blast out of the speakers sounding as fresh as they did when you first heard “Runaway Boys” coming out of your radio all those years ago (fat chance of hearing them on mainstream radio these days).  They were never going to steer away from their rockabilly roots, it’s in their DNA, so predictably these tracks sound almost exactly as if you’d picked up the vinyl after browsing through the racks of your local record store back in 1981 and taken it home for that exciting first spin.  However, while the production is crisp and clean and has added no frills, the sound has definitely benefited from 40 years of studio engineering advances, even if the album was recorded in Nashville playing together live, just like the good old days.  While it’s the collective chemistry of the three original members that make the band what it is, it’s the stupendous guitar playing of Brian Setzer, not forgetting his lead vocal duties, that really set this trio apart.  Anyone who’s followed him over the years is aware that his playing continues to be the gold standard for classic rock’n’roll guitar playing.  His technical brilliance allows him to explore every nook and cranny of the rock/rockabilly lick and riff lexicon; which is what he does on “40”, providing a masterclass of playing in that genre.

The track titles tell you exactly what to expect, opening number “Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me)” a case in point, beginning with that familiar top strings double note stopped bending (your ears awaiting for the rest of “If You Can’t Rock Me” to follow), two bass drum kicks filling the stops before the song gets going.  This sounds like a set opener all the way. The lyrics don’t try and explain how the world is going to pot or provide a deep insight into the human condition; they’re simply a snappy description of a world full of hepped up guys and dolls, looking good in denim and leather and having a lot of fun (and occasionally getting into trouble).  “When Nothing’s Going Right” sounds like it could have been an Elvis Sun sessions cut (Scotty Moore being Setzer’s spiritual father), with the expected, but still hugely effective, pay off line “when nothing’s going right…go left”, cue solo. Lovely stuff!  “Cry Danger” has an absolute killer guitar riff, underpinned by Slim Jim Phantom’s slapped drums, and features backing vocals calling out the title, call and response style, as the riff returns for the chorus.  A fantastic track.  “Desperado” is a great instrumental that sounds like the soundtrack to (no surprise, as the title suggests) a spaghetti western.  Setzer manages to blend the sound of Ennio Morricone and the Shadows (specifically Hank’s tone on “Frightened City”) to create a mini-score for your imagination.  This is a really strong collection of songs; they may sound like they’ve never been away but they sure sound better than ever! Stray Cats are hot!

All rockabilly fans will shout TENpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Whilst everyone else with think it is an EIGHTpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Tracklisting

  1. Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me)
  2. Rock It Off
  3. I’ve Got Love If You Want It
  4. Cry Danger
  5. I attract Trouble
  6. Three Time’s A Charm
  7. That’s Messed Up
  8. When Nothing’s Going Right
  9. Desperado
  10. Mean Pickin’ Mama
  11. I’ll Be Looking Out For You
  12. Devil Train
Stray Cats at 40 deliver new tracks with vitality

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