The Stray Cats in mostly fine form on 1st album in 26 years

Stray Cats, “40” (Surfdog/BMG)

After 26 years, the Stray Cats are back with a new album. And the seasoned felines are in mostly fine form.

The boys who brought rockabilly back into the mainstream in the 1980s haven’t lost a spare snare. The simple, elegant rhythm section of drummer Slim Jim Phantom and bassist Lee Rocker remains, providing a solid foundation for guitarist-singer Brian Setzer. Setzer’s guitar still shimmies and sways and the voice is still there — though understandably a little huskier as time marches on.

No doubt, they’ve got the throwback sound down on “40,” named to celebrate their anniversary. Fans looking for a good time will find it, including on the lead-off “Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me).” Like the Cats classic “Rock This Town,” there’s dancing, drinking and fighting. Well, this time it’s mostly fighting — two women tussling over the affections of the narrator, the aforementioned “dog like me.” The music rocks so joyously, you can deal with the tomcat-foolery.

Another highlight, “Cry Danger,” offers a tight musical groove and inverts the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” riff. Coupled with a boppin’ bass and tambourine shake, you’ve got an original that’s a worthy callback to the 1965 hit by another rockabilly-besotted band.

So, if “40” rocks ‘n’ rolls, then what’s lacking? Something that Setzer and Co. have also done so well: craft enduring, memorable melodies. Go back and listen to “Stray Cat Strut,” which, for all its goofiness (meee-ow!), contains one of the best bridges in all of pop music. There’s also “I Won’t Stand In Your Way,” a gem in both its full band and a cappella versions.

One new song delivers the melodic goods: “Desperado” shines with soaring, aching musical lines from Setzer. Yet those come from his guitar, not voice, in this instrumental. That’s no knock against it, but you can almost hear him singing with his guitar and wonder what it would have been like with words.

Bottom line? The Stray Cats can slink down the alley any way they choose. And this collection shows they’ve still got some life (lives?) left. Still, it feels like a bit of a missed melodic opportunity when you know what else this trio can do.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Who is at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19? Firefighters, drivers, pharmacists, cooks

Central Alberta firefighter says virus taking toll on mental health

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Federal share is approaching $750 million annually, up from $618 million in 2012-13

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

N.S. fire crews continue battling ‘out-of-control’ Porters Lake blaze

Word of the fire first emerged early Saturday afternoon

Technology, representation butt heads amid debate over resuming Parliament

The Liberals are now proposing four meetings a week until June 17

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim makes its way through Halifax

The 35-year-old military public affairs officer and Halifax native died in the crash

The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada as of May 23

There are 83,621 confirmed and presumptive cases in Canada

Procession for Snowbirds crash victim to make its way through Halifax today

The military public affairs officer died in the Snowbirds Tutor jet crash in B.C. last Sunday

Employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

Only eight per cent of employers were fully prepared to restart operations, survey finds

Liberals table proposal for expanded Commons COVID-19 meetings, summer sittings

OTTAWA — The Liberals have tabled a proposal that would see expanded… Continue reading

Most Read