Legendary Rock & Roll three-piece the Stray Cats return with their first album in 26 years.
The iconic American rock and roll trio still boasts its original lineup of Brian Setzer (guitar, vocals), Lee Rocker (bass, vocals) and Slim Jim Phantom (drums, vocals), who have reunited once again after all of this time to celebrate their landmark 40th anniversary.
The band’s latest offering was catalysed by their first North American shows in 10 years. The end result was a period of writing and recording at Blackbird Studios in Nashville late last year with producer Peter Collins and engineer Vance Powell at the helm.
From the opening notes of the aptly titled “Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me)”, it feels like you are opening a time capsule to the Stray Cats heyday of the early 80s. The Cats have lost nothing of the distinctive Rockabilly sound that their band’s fans have come to know and love. The rhythm is immediately recognisable, and Setzer’s infectious guitar licks just make you want to dance. This up-tempo track may well be short and sweet at 2 minutes and 14 seconds long, but it certainly sets the tone for the rest of the record.
There is a real timeless quality to each of the tracks on this record. You can almost visualise foot tapping rock and roll numbers such as “Rock It Off” and “I’ve Got Love If You Want It” being played out on an old Wurlitzer jukebox in a 50s American diner or dance hall. On the other hand, the hypnotic groove of “Cry Danger” and instrumental masterpiece “Desperado” introduce elements of surf rock to the record. The latter of which feels as though it could quite easily sit on the soundtrack to a Quentin Tarantino movie, having quality in both composition and delivery to the late great Dick Dale himself.
You can’t help but relate to the sentiment of “When Nothing’s Going Right”. Of course, we’ve all been there before. But the song gives food for thought for those who find themselves in this situation with the line ‘When nothing’s going right – go left’. A witty retort to an otherwise common scenario.
The trio ups the pace with rockabilly riot-inducing numbers such as “Three Times a Charm” and “Mean Picking Mama” which feature that distinctive and unmistakable Stray Cats sound. Each of these songs could well be future classics in the making.
The band’s eagerly anticipated return concludes with the fiery rocker “I’ll Be Looking Out For You”, which features some blistering fretwork from Setzer. It goes without saying, 40 leaves the listener thinking what took you so long?
Of course, the Stray Cats were influenced by the greats like Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Bill Haley and The Comets and Eddie Cochran. For the band’s fans, 40 may well be the cure for their ‘Summertime Blues’. It may have taken 26 years for a new Stray Cats record, but on the strength of this milestone release, it was certainly worth the wait.
40 by The Stray Cats will be released May 24 via Surfdog Records and distributed by Mascot Label Group (CD, LP, Digital) in Europe and the UK (CD, vinyl, digital). The group will be performing a run of UK dates throughout June in support of the release.