26 years after their last album, we welcome back Stray Cats to our music libraries and stereos, CD and record players for their 40th anniversary celebration. The rockabilly trio brought us nostalgic hits “Rock This Town”, “(She’s) Sexy & 17” and “Stray Cat Strut” which aided the group into becoming a benchmark for rock n roll resurgence. Gaining a cult following for their Sun Records inspired sound and their mixed style clothing, Stray Cats soon became favourites of groups such as The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin in the latter half of 1980.
The album’s opening track, “Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me)”, is an instant reminder of the feeling you get when listening to Stray Cats, complete and utter joy mixed with the need to get up and dance (or learn to Rock n Roll dance). We’re reacquainted with the recognisable twang of Setzer’s hollow-body, and called on with a final yell as the song ends, signifying that Cats are back for good. “Rock It Off” continues the groove and reintroduces us to the familiar huskiness of Brian Setzer’s warm voice, allowing us to picture ourselves dirty dancing to this song in a West Side Story ‘Dance At The Gym’ style setting. “I’ve Got Love If You Want It” and “Cry Danger” sport a swaggery classic style lick accompanied by a catchy chorus supplied by Setzer. The latter track is a crowd-pleaser of a piece- a hand-clapping, foot-tapping, audience involver.
“I Attract Trouble” takes a subtle and sultry turn with a ‘Spaghetti Western’ influence, contradicting its latter track “Three Time’s A Charm” which holds a heavy rockabilly sound, more so than any other of this album’s tracks. A timeless 12 bar blues forms “That’s Messed Up”, followed by groovy “When Nothing’s Going Right” and my favourite track on the album, “Desperado”, an old-Western style instrumental full of passion and adventure. The album’s last three tracks come to a strong close for the group, finalising the perfect comeback.
An interesting and raw element of this album is the manner of recording, taking a ‘gig-style’ set up in a studio and recording the album live. “This new album really feels like the first record we did, its really natural and comfortable,” commented bassist Lee Rocker (via StrayCats.com), “…It captured the magic that takes place and an undefined spark.” Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom noted that their newest release and the live-recording “…felt very natural and familiar… the modern is meeting the vintage, which has always been our inspiration.”
Stray Cats’ 2019 release has ensured their fans that their sound is still alive and has reminded us all of the love we have for their take on contemporary-rockabilly. Its rare these days to find a group that actively and passionately creates timeless music with a “…new and exciting sound,” as noted by Setzer, “…somehow we created [that]… and you know what? A lot of people agree!”