Garage Revivalists

by D. Patrick MacCready

[Given the recent success of The Strange Boys and the release of their new album, here’s a look back at a heretofore unpublished review of their first full length, as a precursor to our upcoming review of their sophomore album. All photos taken by Francis Joseph Cruzada at the band’s appearance during the 2009 Austin Underground Film Festival -ed.]

When I first saw The Strange Boys back in 2007, their surfy analog sound caught my attention. The mid-range moan of the band reminded me of a drunk and depressed Buddy Holly on helium; they had supremely hip tone. Their first full-length LP–righteously produced in a garage–is a retro-raucous juke, fluently illustrating the band’s straightforward sound, achieved in live performance. A myriad of bands claim influence from early Kinks and Rolling Stones, but few revive the tonality of 1966 as well these emigrated Austin mods.

“…And Girls Club” cuts right into some shucking kitschy blues with “Woe Is You and Me,” the jaunty starting gate to side A. Those not indoctrinated will get the whine and moan of Ryan Sambol off the cusp, shadowed with an oddly-infectious howling gang vocal. “They’re Building the Death Camps” will quench a thirst for Caucasian blues with its Telecaster-slung, Captain Beefheart groove. The title also appreciates, even if it’s kidding. Singing about FEMA camps might not mesh elsewhere, but in the conspiracy hub of North America, it’s playfully iconoclastic.

The subsequent “Should Have Shot Paul” is a tongue-in-cheek mash up of undeviating golden oldie revere that supposes filler with its melodious yet repetitious presumed Beatles rib. Arguably the side A zenith is “This Girl Taught Me a Dance,” a jump and snap garage-stomp bordering the gates of perfection. The swaggering classic tone found throughout the record is highlighted with a minimalist lead guitar, surf-born clap track and two-chord shakedown. “Heard You Want to Beat Me Up” warns of pissing off that jealous boyfriend with uniformed R&B structure, poppy rhythm and tambourine high hat. The band strokes Gerry and the Pacemakers’ sensibilities with “No Way For a Slave to Behave,” which sounds like a late 50s/early 60s mainstream lullaby.

The record flip’s “Poem Party”and later “A Man You’ve Never Known” exercise the best attributes of inoculating snotty garage and soul: momentous rockin’ rhythm.

“…And Girls Club” paves over the pitfalls of shoe-gazing with evocative charm and skiffle, conscious intonation apathy and shameless golden-era garage fundamentals. A vintage croon and jangle earmark every track. The Strange Boys also exercise the trendy sense of comedy and fun often attributed to the VICE Records suite–not so much as counterparts “King Khan and BBQ Show” or “The Black Lips”–but enough to suspect that they (like their counterparts) have a healthy sense of irony about their craft.

New fronts in the 60-year-old art form are not utterly absent from the album, but practically. These guys don’t prescribe to the concept of necessitous advancement in rock ‘n’ roll and further suggest it to be something of a golden calf. Those looking for any tangible modern rock dynamics will be disappointed indeed, because every limb and facet of the record is antiquated by design. This is a throwback party record, latent with simplicity; bone dry on chart potential. But “..And Girls Club,” with basic rock underpinnings, pleases with a notable vintage tone not usually synonymous with new vinyl…. it must be those garage acoustics!

The Strange Boys’ first full length LP is a fashionable, linear embrace of an emerging cult of sound. Waterloo Records has The Strange Boys’ “…and Girls Club,” sixteen tracks and two sides, for a moderate $10.99 on The Black Lips’ homestead, In the Red Records. Send me your tunes if you think I’ll surf to them, but in terms of a review it must be VINYL.

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