The Stray Cats
Surfdog Records / BMG Rights Management (US) LLC
You sometimes worry for these sorts of reunions – and certainly The Stray Cats never worried about anything crucial like developing; theirs was a loving pastiche – a style already there that they lifted and ran with, bringing 50s rockabilly to the 70s/80s punk and new wave eras. And they fucking nailed it.
Well, here – celebrating their 40th (which is kinda pushing it given the long break between drinks) they sound nearly as vital as they did back on those crucial cuts like Rock This Town and Stray Cat Strut.
It is the real deal, the full group – Lee Rocker on bass, Slim Jim Phantom slapping down on the drums and of course Mr. Setzer with those stinging guitar lines and that good-good rock’n’roll/punk croon – sorta Iggy Pop via Eddie Cochran.
So it helps that it’s all of the guys – not one person out front with some ring-ins. It helps, too, that their skills have held, they’re all still playing, doing the odd reunion and off with their own projects which trace around the sound they found some 40 years ago.
Opener, Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me) will tell you whether you need to be here or not. But it also tells you that they want to be here – there’s bite in that riff, there’s a great rockin’ shuffle to the beat and there’s some sting in the six strings behind the singing still.
Rock It Off takes the same sort of heat and bends it into a blues-boogie – and, frankly, it lurches a bit too closely towards George Thorogood and The Destroyers’ territory. But it’s still fun-enough.
More successful is Cry Danger, which seems to take The Beatles’ Daytripper riff on a joyride. And the two-minute goof-off that is Three Time’s A Charm. That big gut-slap lollipop bass, juicy guitar licks too. Hard to beat.
Desperado takes a wee Tex-Mex detour, Mean Pickin’ Mama really ramps up the rockabilly and Devil Train feels like the perfect closer here. A whirlwind of snare drum sets the song up and Setzer is full throat here.
They are here for a good time rather than a long time – all 12 songs whiz by in under 35 minutes.
I’m happy with that. And they sound happy too.
I have no idea how often I’ll return to this and if I’d ever favour it over their early gems. But I’m not disappointed that this exists.
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