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|All right, look -- if you've got to have a label, a descriptive shoehorn, a rock-press buzzword, call the Hooligans "psychobilly". It's not that this Southern California based trio is just one more member of the familiar Rotten-meets-Cochran school of frenzy rock. It's just that any band trying to create an original sound by opening the veins of rockabilly and recklessly infusing large doses of early blues influences, Thirties-style jazz riffing, big band-esque swing, pop harmonies and sheer ranting must be off its collective rocker. Dangerously unhinged. A menace to law-abiding folk everywhere, maybe. |
But get this: the Hooligans pull it off. With a vengeance. They pound out a driving rockabilly hybrid with no stitch marks showing, nonchalantly, unselfconsciously -- and infectiously. Since the outfit formed in the late 1980's, its subversively danceable sound has affected audiences like a wickedly toxic cocktail, building a devoted following of fans who demand more than standard-issue roots retreads.
Group founder and frontman Gig Fortier is responsible for much of this stylistic inventiveness. While singing of gleeful hedonism and antisocial exploits with the power of a young Lennon or Setzer, Fortier propels the band with uniquely fluid guitar work that alternately sears, soars, flows and slashes. Razor-sharp rockabilly licks aside, his playing evokes everything from Cab Calloway's minor-key jazz vamps to Creedence's straightforward crunch; his country finger picking alone is testimony to the expertise that underpins his instrumental originality.
Similarly exemplary is the Hooligans' rhythm section. Upright-bass man Jerry Rig, a veteran of an array of diverse projects, slaps the doghouse around with a keen feel for beat and, particularly, melody. Think Paul McCartney had he stuck with rockabilly, or XTC's Colin Moulding backing up Gene Vincent. (Hooligan studio producer and musician nonpareil Mike Keneally, late of Frank Zappa's band, had this to say of Rig: "Jerry is one of the most inventive and melodic non-jazz bassists I've ever heard, much less worked with.") And drummer Heath Cooley's percussive assault is the very reckless soul of rock 'n' roll: brash, driving, unrelenting. With his Krupa-meets-"Wipeout" jungle pulses and his hyper-fast backbeats, Cooley bashes at a pace that might have given Keith Moon pause.
In support of their Skizmatic Records debut, "Last Call", recorded under the tutelage of the estimable Mr. Keneally, the Hooligans are prowling the live circuit more intensely than ever. Some would say you'd be psycho to miss them. Ask your neighbors: the Hooligans are being watched.
Hooligans, The - Junkyard heart (MP3)
Last Call (CD, Skizmatic)