Oh. My. Goodness.
I am such a sucker for a kickin’ brass section. And that’s what’s lovingly smeared all over this adrenalin-rich half hour of rockabilly sumptuousness. Back in the days before Mark Ronson plopped brass all over everything to make it swing and retro and cool, bands in the 50s and 60s were doing the same thing as a matter of course.
(Re)-enter The Teledynes!
Crazy Train sets the tone, all growling lead vocal, vital brass section front and centre and then the tempo only picks up for Callin’ on the Devil. The upright bass slaps away, the tremolo guitars twang with abandon and we’re breathlessly dancing the night away in a smoke-filled dance hall or juke joint. Metaphorically, at least!
Guitar gets a chance to come right to the fore in Midnight Ramblin’ Blues, the tempo chills a little and the 50s flexes its influence further, with great stabs, stops and flourishes embellishing the arrangement throughout. This creates intense moments of interest leaping out of a swagger-filled and laidback groove that effortlessly eases itself into your ears. A walking bass line keeps the train on the track and the lead vocal remains locked in tight – adding further colour to proceedings. The two featured guitar solos have pleasingly different flavours and have markedly different sound states to emphasise this.
The arrangements throughout are reassuringly expensive and very accomplished. As a listener, you rapidly get the idea that you’re in an incredibly safe pair of hands with this album. Never more so than on the next track, the instrumental Cohaagen, which comes across as a sexy, stabby cousin of Dick Dale and His Del-Tones’ Misirlou. Surf guitar and brass duke it out, with both sides coming out as winners! An unbelievably sexy outro finishes off an exceptional track. This is music to dance to, to smile along with, to tap your toe to and to enjoy for its sheer verve and joie de vivre.
Way Out West is another breathless two-and-a-half minutes that features marching snare, and the first time listener will be instantly able to sing along with the main hook. But not before another squirling guitar solo waltzes around the arrangement with abandon and flare.
Ain’t Going Out is another tireless workout for the band, as is ’47 Cadillac. I refer to the band’s own description of themselves at this point and wonder how it is that I haven’t heard of them before. They talk about creating a fun, energised experience, but that feels like a lacklustre description of what they’ve built here.
Seriously, how often does a band release a studio album that feels like it might have captured the live experience accurately? Not very, but that’s what it feels like here.
As we progress through the album, there are still changes being thrown into the mix. Shot of Whiskey put me in mind of the spirit of The Beatles’ She’s A Woman – albeit with a rockabilly hat on – and actually features a fade-out rather than an arranged stop. The aforementioned ’47 Cadillac wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Grease soundtrack.
The vocals sound on-point throughout. At no point, in fact, do they sound anything but connected with the material. That might sound like it’s not worth mentioning, but for the fact that exercises in nostalgia can sound mannered or affected. The Teledynes sound like the real deal, and are effective at communicating just that.
As we move to the end of the album, we get another instrumental workout in September, which, just like the rest of the album, chops along and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Virtuosity shines out like a beacon.
We conclude with Rockabilly Bug, where ‘all I wanna do is play electric guitar’. Listen to this album and I fear we may all be infected!
Whereas some works can be hard to review, this wonderful collection wears its influences on its sleeve and is all the better for it. Unashamedly complex arrangements with no flab, terrific performances all round… what’s not to love?