Dirty Water Records

Taking Music Backwards Into Tomorrow

I-94 Bar: The Dustaphonics “Big Smoke London Town”

For a few years now, The Dustaphonics have been shaking up the London scene with an excitingly energetic party groove sound that distills such wide-ranging influences as 50’s R&B sleaze, 60’s garage rock, vintage soul, blues, surf, punk, you name it. It’s a distinctly vintage sound presented with a modern twist and production sense that carefully preserves the passionate rawness of the music.

The debut album “Party Girl” made it blatantly apparent that London soul-rockers The Dustaphonics had it all over their competition on a couple of fronts. Not only did they have a killer vocalist in San Franciscan expat Kay Elizabeth but a consummate engine room to drive the songs. Album Number Two finds them with a new singer and an interchangeable rhythm section.

The good news is that both vocalist Hayley Red and the backbone of the band are up to the challenge. “Big Smoke London Town” is almost all that “Party Girl” was cracked up to be.

You have to be good to get by in garage rock these days. Minimal airplay, a shrinking circuit of live venues and mostly disinterested media are balanced by a small but resilient core of sympathetic labels, of which the UK-based Dirty Water seems the most indefatigable. Resilience is a by-word.

The Dustaphonics attack their songs with the relish of people steeped in the best music of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Guitarist-cum-driving force Yvan Serrano, a Spaniard who works the vintage DJ circuit as Healer Selecta, is actually the only core member. He obviously has a good handle on picking his band-mates. On this album, veteran Bruce Brand and Eric Frajiria do the business on drums, with southpaw Dan Whalley on bass.

It would be no shock to find out every member had to undergo pre-recruitment reference checks based on their record collection. Rhythm and Blues (before the term was diluted beyond recognition), Surf and Soul are all embedded in The Dustaphonics’ collective DNA.

Serrano’s production is clean, deft and transparent. His guitar style – equal parts Duane Eddy and Link Wray – is flexible enough to suit outright rockers like “Grand Prix” to the tender “Flesh & Blood.” The songs all sit comfortably on Whalley’s warm bass-lines. Hayley Red may not have the range of her predecessor but there’s not much in it. She possesses more than enough sultriness to make these tunes work.

Stylistically, “Big Smoke London Town” bounces around like a ping pong ball in a Bangkok sex show. There’s the big groove, soul bounce of “Back To Mono” and the surf twang-tinged “Rocking Booglaoo”, while “Don’t Let The Devil Drive Your Car” is a tight and dry-sounding garage rocker. Instrumental “Fire Dance” would have given The Cramps a run for their Cajun swamp lunch money.

Righteous enough to merit splashing out your heard earned.

-The Barman

Dirty Water Records London