I-94 Bar: The Dustaphonics "Party Girl"
Every so often, a record lands that knocks you sideways and leaves you wondering if anybody took down the registration number of the truck that just hit. The busy London borough of Hackney isn't known as Rock and Roll Central but The Dustaphonics sound like they're doing their level best to change that.
The bio says they originally started in a back alley as the backing band for B-movie goddess Tura "Faster Pussycat Kill Kill Kill" Satana's latest film, Fronted by garage rocker-cum-DJ Yvan Serrano-Fontova, and home to the stunning soul voice of Jamaican-English-San Franciscan singer Kay Elizabeth, The Dustaphonics leave few stylistic turns un-stoned.
The cartoon cover art and trackside hot rod pit crew sounds of opening instro "Eat My Dustophonics" set the stage that this was going to be another rote throwback album, a well-meaning but overly respectful reflection on less complicated musical times. Then the Link Wray creep of the swampy "Burlesque Queen" and that voice kicked in. And there was even better to come.
"Showman Twang Tiki Gods" unleashed a potent take on surf music. The title tune put Kay Elizabeth's voice front-and-centre and rocked like it was 1969. Then from way out in left-field came the familiar chords of the MC5's "Looking At You." The vocal cuts in at 17 seconds and things are lifted to the next level. The Dustaphonics really do make this one their own.
Alright, "Shotdown Popcorn" really is a bubblegum take on the Sonics and "Catwoman Strut" a jazzed-up variation on the Stray Cats but, damn, they are lots of fun. Howling Wolf would approve of "You Gonna Wreck My Life", I'm sure. The jungle beat ode "Take It From Bo Diddley" is mandatory listening.
It's not only about the voice. Musically, The Dustaphonics are a potent crew that easily straddles the stylistic U-turns that prevail. It's mostly R 'n' B (in the traditional form) and garage rock that puts its head down and charges for the finish line without falling over itself. The Dustaphonics leave enough open spaces so their tunes don't choke on their own exhaust fumes.
Don't think of this record as a weak pastiche. Things get all muscular on the title track and "I Think I've Had It" and the soulful Ms Elizabeth is up to the job, vocally speaking. "The Jinx" was a 2011 single on Munster and sounds like Lisa Kekaula fronting a twangier version of the BellRays. That's not faint praise.
Play this loud - again and again.