May 13, 2019 Stray Cats – 40 (Album Review)
Reuniting for their first new album in 26 years, Rockabilly legends the Stray Cats will release the LP 40 on Friday, May 24th, 2019, commemorating their 40th anniversary.
Natives of Long Island, NY, it is hard to believe four decades have past since Brian Setzer (guitar/ lead vocals), Lee Rocker (bass/vocals), and Slim Jim Phantom (drums/vocals) pioneered a Rockabilly revival in the early 1980s. Bringing back influences dating back to the 1950s, the Stray Cats developed a huge and unexpected following in the the decade of Heavy Metal simply by playing pure, original Rock-n-Roll music influenced by legends such as Bill Haley & His Comets, Carl Perkins, and Eddie Cochran.
Arriving with an image blending 1950s Rockabilly and a touch of Punk Rock edge, the Stray Cats released their debut album, 1981’s Stray Cats, to critical acclaim from fans, critics, and fellow peers in music such as Led Zeppelin and The Who. Regardless of musical taste, most fans are familiar with the Stray Cats’ biggest hit “Rock This Town,” a song which has easily become a part of pop culture over the years. After disbanding in the mid 1980s, the Stray Cats reunited a few times during the mid to late 2000s. Then, in October 2018, Setzer announced the Stray Cats would reunite once again in 2019 for a tour and a new album to celebrate their 40 year milestone.
To record their first new studio album since 1993’s Original Cool, the Stray Cats entered Nashville, Tennessee’s Blackbird Studios in late 2018 with veteran Producer Peter Collins who has worked with everyone from Setzer’s own The Brian Setzer Orchestra, to Billy Squier, and Rush. On a bit of a high, the Stray Cats recorded 40 coming off of a wild ride of performing their first North American shows in a decade where masses of crazed Stray Cat fans ignited an energy into the band to give these sessions that much more juice.
Featuring 12 new tracks, 40 starts off to a swing’n good time with “Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me).” On this tune, any listener will be transported to a parking lot in the 1950’s to witness some rumbling and tussling straight out of West Side Story. Next, “Rock It Off” is suggestive of the possibility that music is the cure for the common cold. Thereafter, “I’ve Got Love If You Want It” portrays a guy with no cash but he does have a lot of love to give.
With a fun imagination, the next three tracks seem to form a pattern of suspense as “Cry Danger” comes with a cynical hook and a thrilling story of feeling like you are not in Kansas anymore. After that, “I Attract Trouble” is a fun segue as the main character of the song admits they enjoy falling head first into danger while “Three Times A Charm” appreciates the opposite sex. Continuing the Rockabilly ecstasy, “That’s Messed Up” tells the tale of being wronged by love, “When Nothing’s Going Right” gives solid advice on what to do when things go bad, and the instrumental “Desperado” could easily be in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Lastly, 40 is capped off by notable tunes “Mean Pickin’ Mama,” “I’ll Be Looking Out For You,” and the galloping “Devil Train.”
After four decades of legendary Rockabilly status, the Stray Cats never needed nine lives to stick around. The proof is in the pudding, as 40 delivers the Stray Cats sounding as good as ever in a fine celebration of their storied history. Without a doubt, fans of the Stray Cats will enjoy 40, and, with a classy understated sound, this music certainly holds up in 2019. Honoring a legendary band, Cryptic Rock gives 40 3.5 out of 5 stars.