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Bobby Lees - Skin Suit

  by Adrian Janes

published: 9 / 8 / 2020

Bobby Lees - Skin Suit
Label: Alive Natural Sound
Format: CD


Lust for life garage rock with the engine running, on Jon Spencer-produced debut from New York’s The Bobby Lees.

The Bobby Lees are a rambunctious, sometimes ramshackle, reminder of what rock and roll is all about. This Jon Spencer-produced debut combines elements from the garage rock Sixties and the punk rock Seventies with echoes of rockabilly, in a souped-up pungent stew. The aptly named ‘Move’ kicks off proceedings. It’s a short, sharp burst of energy, like a concentrated dose of the White Stripes’ ‘Girl, You have No Faith in Medicine’, in Sam Quartin’s echoed vocals and Nick Casa’s raw guitar. ‘Guttermilk’, with Macky Bowman’s enthusiastically careening drums, fuzz bass from Kendall Wind, Quartin’s crazed vocals and what sounds like a cheap keyboard in the background, is just as wild. Yet this vitality only partly masks an anxious awareness of danger and even death. In ‘Guttermilk’, Quartin “left my love dying somewhere down on the way”, while on ‘Coin’ she passionately exclaims “I wanna die with your hand in mine.” And of all covers to pick from the punk rock era that’s a clear inspiration for this band, is it mere coincidence that they choose Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ ‘Blank Generation’, with its anguished opening “I was saying ‘Let me out of here’ before I was even born”? It’s an undercurrent that needs to be picked up, but not at the expense of responding to the exuberant voltage that zips through ‘Riddle Daddy’, the galloping rhythm of ‘Russell’, the Duane Eddy touches on ‘Wendy’, and the maelstrom of ‘Mary Jo’, wherein the collectively-penned lyrics come up with near-Beefheart levels of oddness (“Cowboy hat yeehaw, she cut down with a seesaw”), interspersed with deranged slide guitar and what sounds like Bowman in a dispute with his drums that he just about wins. ‘Drive’ seems to sum up these contradictory moods, with Quartin at one point “feelin’ slightly suicidal/Lookin’ for telephone poles and holes to crawl inside of”, before inviting her lover to “Come and ride with me.” Only the raw energy of the playing is enough to tip the balance and suggest she has preferred a lovers’ tryst to a suicide pact. At one point, things are slowed down as Casa gleefully intones the ghoulish (or should that be goulash?) ‘Ranch Baby’ over funeral home organ. If you’re smacking your lips at the prospect of what sounds like a Cramps out-take, feel free, but it’s not to this listener’s taste. Before the covers, there’s the band’s own ‘Last Song’. For the most part Quartin delivers it like an old rock and roll ballad, but she gradually heads towards an impassioned conclusion as the band collapse around her:“Cause you and I we’ve got/So much to give/I heard them talkin’ and/We’re gonna live.” In these days of trans-activism, a woman singing Bo Diddley’s ‘I’m a Man’ (pre-eminently covered by Muddy Waters, among others) maybe has an added significance. But perhaps more plausibly, as Quartin’s vocals echo 50s-style , the guitar lurches and the drums hammer, it’s simply one final acknowledgement of the Lees’ widespread musical roots and the spirit that ‘Skin Suit’ incarnates.

Track Listing:-
1 Move
2 Coin
3 Guttermilk
4 Riddle Daddy
5 Redroom
6 Ranch Baby
7 Wendy
8 Mary Jo
9 Drive
10 Russell
11 Last Song
12 I'm a Man
13 Blank Generation

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