I told you about the band Furious in a post a while back when my old friend Roy Williams from Nervous Records in the UK got back in touch with me after too many years. Roy followed our online reunion up by sending me the band’s Wreck The Hoose Juice CD. This album is a wild ride from beginning to end and if you like your rock and roll tough, gritty, and full speed ahead, then this is definitely a CD you’ll want to give a listen to.
Being a somewhat ignorant yank from the Midwest of the USA, the CD also provided me with a little bit of an education. The CD jewel case bears the tagline, “Teddy Boy Rock and Roll.” Now, I’ve heard of teddy boys before, but we didn’t have that phenomenon here in the states and so I wasn’t really entirely sure what being a “ted” was all about. I knew it was a parallel outgrowth of rock and roll in 1950s England and I guess I kind of knew that it has survived as a subculture even today. I could even describe the distinctive clothes that distinguished the teds from other rockers of the day.
But Wreck the Hoose Juice includes two or three songs that are somewhat teddy boy anthems and so I decided I’d need to know a little bit more about the teds in order to understand this music. I poked around the Nervous Records website and found a nice little summary written by Mr. Williams himself and that shed a bit of light on the subject for me.
But the CD really provides the most illumination. This music isn’t rockabilly, but it clearly springs out of the rockabilly well and contains many elements of rockabilly. It’s guitar-driven music backed by a simple drum and stand-up bass accompaniment (with occassional piano and a saxophone here and there) and clearly shows its rockabilly pedigree.
But while many of the songs on the CD could fit the rockabilly format, even those would be considered pretty aggressive rockabilly. The music on this CD is straight-ahead rock and roll and that word—aggressive—fits it perfectly. Stylistically it evokes Chuck Berry more than Carl Perkins. It’s the kind of stuff the Beatles were cranking out in the Cavern Club before they became the gods of rock and roll. But it’s cranked up—way up—from either Chuck or the mop tops. Lots of heavy distortion drenches Andy Halligan’s guitar sound and Andy’s bassist brother Mark’s lead vocal style leaves you wondering how he makes it through two songs, let alone a whole show, without shredding his vocal chords to ribbons. The brothers, backed by Yann Gourmelon on drums, turn out one high-energy rocker after another through 17 relentlessly energetic cuts.
The CD starts out very aggressively with “Hang Your Head,” which is one of the Teddy Boy anthems I spoke about. Halligan belts out, “You ain’t nothin’ but a scruffy Ted.” Even when the band “slows” it down with “My Eyes Run Dry” they still ram it down your throat with pure conviction that makes you want it rammed down your throat. “Thank you sir, may I have another!” and all that.
All of the songs (with the exception of “Punk Bashin’ Boogie”) were written by the band with Andy Halligan penning most of them. And the CD holds together very well from beginning to end. Even though that’s true, there almost seems to be two different records here. As aggressive as the first nine cuts are, there’s a definite turn toward the sinister starting with “Let It Out” which evokes a more psychobilly, even punk, sensibility.
But I’m a little hesitant to say such a thing because the song “Punk Bashin’ Boogie” makes it pretty clear that there appears to be no love lost between the teds and punks. This is where my yankee ignorance might get me into trouble, so I won’t follow that line of similarity any further. “Soon you scolls are gonna learn!” blasts the band in “We Are the Teds.” I have no idea what a “scoll” is (and I’m sorry if it’s some sort of British slang that’s offensive to those who do know what it is), but it sounds like a threat I want to stay away from!
But I will say that this is a great rock and roll record from beginning to end. It’s got all the elements of the raw music that turned the kids on so much in the 50s while at the same time flipping the adults completely out. The band takes all of those elements and cranks up the presentation with a more modern sound and presentation and delivers a very hard-driving record full of great energy, top-notch playing and singing, and strong song writing.
If you’re in the mood for rock and roll and you want to get the party going with something strong and aggressive, you can’t do much better than Wreck the Hoose Juice. If I were you, I’d buy this CD.
(Full disclosure: I have an old relationship with Nervous Records that could potentially color my opinion of the company and its offerings. But honest; I didn’t let that cloud my thinking for this review!)