Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse - Hot Nostalgia Radio

Me and Beaux Gris Gris & The Apocalypse have been like ships that pass in the night over the years.  I’ve clocked their name, and heard a few things from time to time, but I’ve never really sat down and got properly acquainted with them. Well that’s all over now, baby blue.
Lately I’ve been getting into raucous garage rock kinda stuff, and when the Beaux Gris Gris combo whack into opening track ‘Oh Yeah!’ they hit the goddamn motherlode.  Robin Davey’s guitar riff is a pile driver, Greta Valenti squawks her tongue-twisting vocal like a maniac, Sam Robertson’s pulverises his piano, and the bass’n’drums of Stephen Mildwater and Tom Rasulo are well and truly turbo-charged. With 
Robin Davey and Greta Valenti contemplate rock'n'roll apocalypse
Pic by Kaelin Davis
Davey cranking out a sparks-flying solo as the cherry on top, it’s like ‘Devil Gate Drive’ gone nutzo.  It’s trashy, technicolour, and abso-fucking-lutely terrific.
A few songs later they strike another seam of R’n’B-infused garage rock gold, with the run of ‘Told My Baby’, ‘Middle Of The Night’, ‘Sad When I’m Dancing’, and ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’.  With ringing guitar, swirling Wurlitzer, and Valenti’s gasping, pouting vocals, I can visualise Stockard Channing’s Rizzo from Grease slouching around the dance floor to these tracks, all the while chewing gum and being snarky to all and sundry passing by – and god love her for it.  Across these four tracks the tempo gradually slows from the Diddley-esque stomp of ‘Told My Baby’, through the steaminess and honking horns of ‘Middle Of The Night’ and the mirrorball-dappled soul of ‘Sad When I’m Dancing’ until reaching full-on torch song mode with the teen heartbreak of ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’.
Along the way there are a coupla more generic blues-rock outings with ‘Wild Woman’ and ‘Satisfy Your Queen’, though the latter has a bit more quirky personality, and Davey comes up trumps with some scrabbling, screeching guitar work.  But in the second half of this 14-song collection they cast off the garage rock stylings and throw some different shapes to show their range.
If ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’ is something of a tongue-in-cheek rock’n’roll ballad, ‘The Runaway’ is a more mature, straight-up retro-soul slowie, Valenti’s vocal now grown-up and sweetly regretful.  ‘Harder To Breathe’ follows that by leaning into something of an Americana-soul vibe, with what sounds like lap steel guitar twanging gently in the background.
‘Don’t Let Go’ is straight-faced Sixties pop with throbbing guitar, bubbling Fender Rhodes piano and fairground Wurlitzer organ, and another melancholic vocal from Valenti.  ‘Penny Paid Rockstar’ is similarly mournful, with a tune that recalls Springsteen’s ‘Factory’ (they've covered his 'I'm On Fire' in the past) but inclining towards a country-ish vibe, with more of that weeping lap steel commentary from Davey.  ‘Marie’ is a cleverly constructed tune, with overlapping vocal parts creating something different.  Then with ‘Let’s Ride’ they turn their musical compass towards New Orleans – Valenti was raised in Louisiana – with Robertson strapping on an accordion to hint at zydeco over Rasulo’s skipping beat, while Davey gets into very low-twanging territory on guitar.  The closing ‘Mama Cray’ ups the cajun ante, foregrounding the accordion and the syncopated drums.
Really, you get two albums for the price of one with Hot Nostalgia Radio, with the rock’n’rollin’ freshness of the first half, and the roots music maturity of the second.  Pay your money and take your pick, you’ll be satisfied either way, because it’s clear the Beaux Gris Gris crew have the musical savvy and chops to deliver the goods.
But I’ll hang my hat on that “Side 1” stuff.  The nights are getting warmer, and it won’t be long till the summer comes, and you’re cruising down to Dino’s bar’n’grill with the windows wound down, and the rock’n’rollin’ sounds of yesteryear coming over the airwaves courtesy of Hot Nostalgia Radio.  Oh yeah!
Hot Nostalgia Radio is released by Grow Vision Music on 3 May, and can be ordered here.

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