Kim Lenz and The Jaguars – [Album]

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Over the last few years, there has been a tremendous, rejuvenated interest in rockabilly music (again) but, in this case, the term 'revival' would be ironic given that the lion's share of the bands making the music are doing it the same way, using the same macabre themes. Granted, rockabilly has never been a genre blessed with an untold wealth of subjects to sing about (relationships, cars, misadventures in relationships and cars with alcohol involved and, finally, hard luck stories), but it's become even more homogeneous than that now. As bands like The Creepshow, The Matadors, The Brains and The Rumble Devils illustrate, playing rockabilly music can be as simple as, “unearth a corpse, throw it in your car, drink a superhuman amount, perform a ritual to reanimate said corpse, repeat as many times as the record's runtime will allow.” It's still fun, but as formulaic as rockabilly ever was, it seems to have become even more so.

That it goes against all of those now-well-worn clichés is exactly what makes Kim Lenz' album so good. While, yes, the themes in songs like “Touch Me,” “That's The Breaks” and “Chocolate Eyes” are all as old as Rick Nelson's girlfriend, that songs about love, sex, and classic cars set against blazing-but-meticulous guitar lines have fallen so far out of fashion makes their appearance on this album feel like a refreshing and genuine-article rockabilly rave-up.

The structures and conventions of the sound are still the height of blessed simplicity here too; from the opening carnal charge of “Touch Me,” Lenz seems to gasp for air against her own incendiary and percussive guitar playing (aided and abetted by rockabilly guitar institution Nick Curran) rather than drawing heavy breath in some fabricated coital enactment. It's fun and playful and not in a heavy petting or fending off ghouls at her throat sort of way. That light and airy demeanor carries through the duration of It's All True's dozen tracks and even when the singer does indulge in a bit of crypt-raiding on “Zombie For Your Love,” the effect isn't so calculated to capitalize on the popularity of so many other bands so much as it seems like good-natured ribbing and deliberate re-enactment of a trend delivered with a sarcastic wink and a sly smirk.

Lenz continues to re-establish the vibes and imagery of the 1950s elsewhere in the late-playing of the record, with a couple of choice covers (including a fantastic rendition of Carol Cummings' “Burning Rubber”) that dust off some old-school swagger and give it a thick, shiny coat of Turtle Wax as well as some vintage come-hithers in “I Break A Heart Every Night” and drive-in beefiness (“Shined Up And Ready To Shout”) and all combine to give listeners a fantastic, technicolor and life-like impression that the period in which this music was most vital isn't so far gone after all and the music itself needn't come off as rigid and non-flexible as a corpse or as hollow-eyed as a zombie. Rather, It's All True! is simply a great rock n' roll record designed for a time-frame that happens to be the band's favorite; it's not treated as old or campy, simply played to the hilt for fun and the love of it.


Kim Lenz online

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It's All True!
is out now and available here on Amazon .

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