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Stray Cats: 40 - Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 30th 2019
40 years on, you wouldn't know
People of a 'certain vintage' will undoubtedly remember the Stray Cats. Their rockabilly throwback sound was the perfect antidote to anodyne pop in the late 70s, early 80s. Songs like 'Runaway Boys', 'Stray Cat Strut' and 'Rock This Town' were huge. Then the band split, came back together, split… the sort of things bands do. Brian Seltzer went off and did heaps of things. I have mentioned his big band orchestra before, and still think his version of 'Mack The Knife' is one of the very best. Meanwhile, the other two members formed Phantom, Rocker and Slick, who had a massive single with 'Men Without Shame'.

Now, for the first time in 25 years, they have recorded an album together. That album is 40, to celebrate their fortieth year. I bought the deluxe set, which came with drink coasters, stickers, a postcard and two bonus tracks. Why not?

It's the Stray Cats, you know what you're going to get. It's that simple, really. And they show that age has not slowed them down one little bit. Also, members of the band wrote or co-wrote all the tracks on the main album (the two bonus live tracks were not written by members of the band).

'Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me)' opens the set, and straight away we're into the fun. This is the sort of song that will undoubtedly get the crowds singing along.

'Rock It Off' is a slight change of tempo with some nice guitar playing throughout and a weird lyrical line about getting better from whatever ails you by… well, it's in the title. I really enjoyed this track.

Another great track follows. 'I've Got Love If You Want It' could so easily have come from a late 1950s act; it has that perfect sound and lyrics for that era. This is a dance-along song. No, seriously, I reckon you'd just want to grab your partner and swing around the kitchen. Or is that just me?

'Cry Danger' is a little heavier, with a slightly more 70s blues feel to it. Again, the change of tempo comes perfectly.

We slow down a little for 'I Attract Trouble', with a bass heavy verse structure which gives it a nice sense of menace. The brief guitar solo is almost a tribute to surf music! Cool track.

'Three Time's A Charm' sounds like it could have been taken from an Eddie Cochran album. Another dance-along track.

'That's Messed Up' is a standard song redeemed by some fine guitar playing, including one of the better solos on the album.

The tempo lifts a little for ' When Nothing's Going Right' with one of the great pieces of music advice ever: "When nothing's going right, go left." Another of the better songs on the album, also the only song in the body of the album without a Brian Setzer writing or co-writing credit – written by Leon Drucker.

'Desperado' is an awesome change of pace – a fantastic instrumental track. This is a definite album highlight. I really enjoyed this and found myself listening to it more than once even on my first album run-through. My favourite track on the album.

Up next is 'Mean Pickin' Mama', which is a standard rockabilly number, with a solo that sounds like a typical Stray Cats solo. It's not a bad song, but maybe the fact I really enjoyed the track it follows made me feel a little indifferent to it.

On the other hand, 'I'll Be Looking Out for You' is a different sounding track, almost channelling the sound of Phantom, Rocker and Slick in its slightly heavier track, and yet with the speed of rockabilly that Stray Cats are renowned for. A nice mixture and a really strong track.

The final song on the proper album is 'Devil Train. What a great way to end the album! The band sound like they are having fun playing this song, which, much like Suzi Quatro's recent release, is such a great way to end things.

Then we have two live bonus tracks on my deluxe edition.

'Cry Baby' is a nice little rocker that chugs along at a nice pace with a couple of great guitar solos thrown in for good measure.

'Double Talkin' Baby' ends on a fine rockabilly note with some good musicianship from all three band members.
stray cats, band, brian setzer, phantom, rocker

The band is tight on every track, showing that they might have had time apart, but there is something about them that just clicks when they get together. And there is not a bad track on the album. I know I say that a lot about modern albums that I have been reviewing, but, really, if I like only half the songs I am not going to review it here. If you liked Stray Cats in the past, you know what you're getting, and I would recommend that you give this a go. If you like the rockabilly music, you would be hard-pressed to find much finer recent exponents. If I have one criticism, it's maybe that by the end the songs do tend to blur into one another if you're not paying a great deal of attention. Maybe an actual ballad would not have gone astray to break it up, much as the instrumental 'Desperado' did. (Interesting to note that my favourite track on Ace Frehley's recent album was also the instrumental…)

Anyway, great album, recommended.
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