Friday, January 13, 2023

Speedbuggy USA - Sonic West

Eighties cowpunk, garage rock, rockn’roll.  Mash up that little lot, and some other stuff besides, and the end result might sound a bit like Speedbuggy USA.  They’re rootsy, raunchy, and do their thang with a decent helping of attitood on Sonic West, an album that came out last August, but which only crossed my path the other week.
‘Sonic West’ itself leads the way, introduced by an echoing, ‘One Step Beyond’ style call to arms, before rolling out of the station with an intriguing, Clash-like rhythmic interweaving of Steve Kidwiler’s guitar and Patrick Dennis’s bass as a prelude to a surf-rockish guitar excursion. Then before you can say “Dick Dale” they dial it down again for an atmospheric spoken interlude that’s the track’s sole vocal component.
Speedbuggy USA - not the usual country suspects
There’s a garage rock raunch to ‘Bad Reaction’, with its blasts of harp and distorted vocals on the edgy verse, and moaning backing vocals on the pre-chorus as they hint at the 60s likes of ‘Psychotic Reaction’ and early Yardbirds R’n’B, underlined by a pleasingly scratchy guitar solo that I'd have liked to get scratchier still.
“I wanna hear some country music, crank it loud,” demands singer Timbo on ‘Burn’, and they do, to the extent that Greg McMullen actually manages to make his pedal steel sound respectably gutsy, instead of that godawful snivelling sound it contributes to a lot of old-fashioned country music.  We’re in the realms of Lone Justice here, with a mucho catchy chorus and a smattering of wiry guitar breaks for extra rock’n’roll credits.  They crank things up even further on the following ‘Run With The Wolves’, which has moments of restraint but is really all about the ringing, charging chorus, with an increasingly feverish vocal from Timbo, runaway drums from Mike McNamara.
They really can write a good chorus, as ‘Just Give Me A Reason’ demonstrates.  There may be a Stonesy, stuttering quality to the verses, but it’s the chorus that dominates, yearning and enhanced by some sweet harmonies supplied by Cindy Wasserman of Dead Rock West.  Their skill in this department is underlined by the slowish ‘Don’t’, on which the verses are kinda inconsequential next to the call and response hook.
‘Left All Alone’ is more energetic fare, a harem scarem blast of country garage that puts me in mind of the Raelyn Nelson Band, with a twangeroonie guitar break and a borderline bluegrass burst of gymnastics towards the end.  ‘(One Tough) Son Of A Bitch’ explores a different kinda country angle, with “oh-woah-ho-oh” singalongs and pedal steel trimmings bracketing a Johnny Cash-like bit of storytelling, delivered in suitably assertive fashion by Timbo.
The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now’ pops up [careful with the video if you're averse to strobes], and as incongruous as that may sound they do a damn good job of making it work.  Kidwiler retains Johnny’s chiming, swooning guitar vibe, while Timbo ditches Morrissey’s fey, mannered stylings in favour of a more in-yer-face, finger-jabbing assertiveness.
They get more expansive on the closing ‘Hitch My Wagon’, which sets out with big fuzzy chords over a leisurely beat, gradually developing an out-in-the-desert-night openness to go with the romantic melody and Timbo’s aching vocal.  Kidwiler gets to wig out with a big, squealing guitar solo, and the epic feel is completed by his guitar bleeding all over the slow fade-out.
I may have mentioned country numerous times in this review, but this ain’t no Nashville sound.  This is country given a rock’n’roll shot of in the arm by a bunch of urban punks who like the twang and the tunefulness, but aren’t up for any sentimentality.  A few of the songs are a bit slight, truth be told, but I’ll let ‘em off because of their no messing, get on with it approach.  Sonic West is a pitcher of something fresh to wet your musical whistle.
Sonic West is out now on Rare Bird 

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