Anachronistic rockers keep it real
At a time when music was often more about glam and glitz than actual substance, The Stray Cats, with their primitive instruments and deliberately retro sound and look, were a refreshing alternative to the New Romantic movement, and all that hair salon pop being played on the airwaves. Yes the 80’s was a cruel decade, but not an entirely fruitless one. There was still plenty of great music being made that didn’t require a synth and a baggy suit stuffed with three-story high shoulder pads.
Released in 1983, Rant N’ Rave With the Stray Cats was the band’s third UK album, and one which saw them take their sound a little further, even as far forward as 1959. Though despite the old fashioned stance, the production is unmistakably 1980’s, in that the sound is far cleaner and more polished than on their previous LP Gonna Ball.
First of all, this record is about having fun, no politics or navel gazing going on here thank you very much. From the Bo Diddley style opener of “Rebels Rule,” to the punkish “How Long You Wanna Live, Anyway?” The Stray Cats are clearly in a party mood.
“Too Hip, Gotta Go” and “Look At That Cadillac” are enjoyable pubescent rockers, as is the snotty “Something’s Wrong With My Radio,” the band’s own way of pointing their collective middle finger at modern music. “18 Miles To Memphis” chugs along all the way to Sam Phillips’ studios, before they rev things up on the too-cool-for-school “(She’s) Sexy + 17,” a song that Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran would be proud of (the video is a real hoot by the way), along with “Hotrod Gang,” another Vincent inspired tune.
Certainly each song has its own distinct personality, although by the time the listener gets to “Dig Dirty Doggie,” rockabilly’s limitation as a genre begins to grate a little, although I guess that depends on how much of a fan one really is of ‘50s era rock n’ roll, and ballad “I Won’t Stand In Your Way” is about as ‘50s as one can get, with Setzer crooning his way on what is a delightfully nostalgic number, and one of the more unique songs to make it into the US singles chart.
Produced by Dave Edmunds, another rocker who also produced the group’s debut, Rant N’ Rave is an enjoyable, often entertaining document, and one which never takes itself too seriously, just the way rock n’ roll ought to be – well, sometimes at least. A big four out of five pompadours.