Saturday, October 7, 2023

Brian Setzer - The Devil Always Collects

Same old same old – but still great fun!  That pretty much sums up The Devil Always Collects, the new album from Brian Setzer of Stray Cats fame.  To listen to this album is to enter a time warp back to the 50s and maybe early 60s, guided by a guy who was only born during that period, but who has been inhabiting it for over 40 years now.  And his love for the sounds and vibes of that rock’n’roll explosion shines through.
There are tunes here that are pure Stray Cats in feel, and if they can’t magic up the sense of brash novelty that the trio conveyed way back in the 80s, they’re still belters.  The opener ‘Rock Boys Rock’ is driven along by rattling drums and rocking stand-up bass from Victor Indrizzo and David Spicher, punctuated by whooping and hollering vocal interpolations from Jennifer Goforth
Brian Setzer - Rock boy, rock!
 and/or Setzer’s missus Julie, while the man himself knocks out a scorching rockabilly guitar solo.  There’s a tug o’war going on between the verses and chorus on ‘Psycho Suzie’, as the drums and bass get another good skelping on a rockabilly workout in support of Setzer twanging and surging his way around with licks galore.
‘One Particular Chick’ isn’t quite ‘Stray Cat Strut’ revisited, but it’s still a finger-snapping woozy stroll down the sidewalk on a sultry evening, with Setzer merrily crooning away about clicking at first sight with the chick of the title.  Best of all though, is the hoot that is ‘Girl On The Billboard’.  Its lyrics may be cartoonish, but they’re still breath-sappingly brilliant as Setzer delivers them like a hepped-up, rock’n’rollin’ Johnny Cash, over backing that bounces along in irresistible fashion, this time with Jimmy Lee Sloas wielding electric bass.
But there’s more variety on offer with the likes of ‘The Living Dead’, another languid ballad but this time with a spooky vibe like a David Lynch soundtrack, ooh-oohing female backing vocals adding to the atmosphere as Setzer adopts his crooning tone once again.  Better still though is ‘She’s Got A Lotta . . . Soul!’, which lives up to its title with horn-drenched sassiness over a Peter Gunn-like bassline and Bo Diddley-leaning rhythm to provide a dance-like-no-one’s-watching opportunity.
Elsewhere there’s a cover of Nick Lowe’s ‘Play That Fast Thing (One More Time) that carries more than a hint of Rockpile as it skips along at mid-pace, and though the verses may be a bit so-so the chorus has a hook fit to land a marlin.  ‘Black Leather Jacket’ is a “gotta have the rumble” romance, with the eponymous jacket just one of the objects of the hero’s affection as he reflects on weaving down the road on his motorsickel, dicing with Dead Man’s Curve.  Meanwhile ‘The Devil Always Collects’ may be a low-down, rumbling warning against deals with El Diablo, but it still cracks along at a hectic pace.  (By the by, something about this track keeps putting me in mind of Whitesnake's 'Hot Stuff'.  Go figure!)
Sure, this is unreconstructed old-time rock’n’roll.  Sure, the songs can get a bit silly on the wordsmithing front now and then.  But the talents of Setzer and his band of compadres, bring this stuff to vibrant life sufficiently to ignore a few sub-par moments.  Still bequiffed, still committed, still rockin’.
The Devil Always Collects is out now on Surfdog Records, and can be ordered here.

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