Wed Oct 26
1 SW 3rd
WHAT'S ROCKABILLY'S PROB? From Gene Vincent to the Stray Cats to the Cramps, its aesthetic is pure cartoon. Trashy girls with huge, torpedo tits and tattooed everything. Trashy guys in leopard-print man-blouses and cocksure sneers. Trashy hot rods. Trashy guitars. Trashy... anything, everything. It's a joke, nostalgia trafficking, a retro fake-out of the highest order. And it's too bad, because there's been a lot of great, respectable rockabilly—past and present.
It's tough because I try and ignore the wrapping and concentrate on the content, but rockabilly doesn't help out much. I dig it though, and Jon Spencer (Pussy Galore, Blues Explosion) and Matt Verta-Ray's (Madder Rose) new rockabilly band Heavy Trash is some good shit. First thing that grabbed me is this isn't the spacey, futuro-garage Spencer's dicked with in the past. This is classic, '50s-style, minimalist rockabilly.
Track three on their self-titled debut sounds like the Blasters—jittery guitars, thumpy "I Walk the Line" bass. "Justine Alright" starts like a Chuck Berry song, before Spencer gets all Dave Alvin on us with playful, goofy Big Bopper/Foghorn Leghorn vocals. The lyrics aren't anything special, but rockabilly was always blues' dumber, hickier cousin—thuggish, less articulate, but more fun.
There are other missteps. The heavily processed, faux-scary vocals and canned handclaps on "Mr. K.I.A" are painfully out of place on a traditional-sounding record. Then there's the horrendous "Gatorade," which on first listen sounds like—yep—a Gatorade commercial. But it's really about Spencer going down on some girl: "I said, 'Hey honey don't you use that thing to pee?'/She said 'why won't you suck it and see...' Gatorade! Gatorade!/Tastes so good/I'm amazed." But none of this taints the record all that much. Now, if rockabilly would just give up the ghost and not limit itself to "trash" schtick and hokey, greaser steez... don't hold your breath.