What I'm listening to: Death Rattle Boogie
The Datsuns new full length album, 14 tracks in 50:31 minutes, does what the Datsuns do best: arrives by smashing into your old car, revving and squealing and doing donuts and burnouts, and then disappears into the distance in a puff of smoke, leaving a fading trail of car alarms panicking in its wake.
Death Rattle Boogie is exquisitely sequenced, with tempos and energy levels peaking and pulsing, and magnificently played, relentless, on the beat and, as the title says, boogie. I've only had it for a week and already I think it's my favourite Datsuns album.
Heavy rock, as a collection of sub-genres, has a thin palette of feelings: rage; lust; perhaps slightly shot through with sorrow (for things unattained) or grief (for things lost).
On earlier releases the Datsuns pretty much wore their smirks on their sleeves - you could tell they were having the most fun you can have while breathing. In a fairly typical kiwi way they were faintly undercutting their own way of life by having far too obvious a sense of humour.
On this record the fun is still there (Hole In Your Head, the new-wave style track, has the best punchline of any Datsuns song ever) but it's under control, and that takes the "cartoon" (viz the Ramones) energy away, making the menacing and edgy material stand out.
The sound of the record is extraordinarily simple. Bass and drums; rhythm guitar in one channel, lead guitar in the other, though most of the solos drop in the centre; no long solos, most are 8 bars, one is a verse and a chorus; the singer is right up front and a few backing vocals - two tracks have some keyboards up front, an anonymous guest rolls Nicky Hopkins flavoured rhythm and boogie piano on one track (Goodbye Ghosts also has the best backing vocals, and is a showcase for Dolf de Borst's mature vocal control).
The sound is equally careful. The audio verite buzz of amps, backing vocals dropped on a single word in a verse: "horror". No hand claps. A quiet but insistent shaker (probably made of bone) in Skull Full Of Bone.
The Datsuns trademark sound is de Borst's epic screech threaded with Christian Livingstone's yowling guitar against a thunderous rhythm. On this record they have elevated their interplay - Wander The Night could almost be a duet, vocals and guitar crooning off hand in hand into the sunset. Livingstone's guitar is probably the main beneficiary of the record's clean sound. He has a beautiful tone and great control, and his licks are considered and melodic.
It seems the Datsuns are in peak form. The point of the Datsuns is to rock hard. This disc is hard from front to back. The epic Fool's Gold has big hooks, a catchy chorus, and the coldest lyric I've heard since Shaft's Three Little Pigs.
The opening track of the album, Gods Are Bored, can be heard at http://thedatsuns.bandcamp.com/.
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