With all the hoopla and excitement over the new gee-golly-gosh retro-cool selection of rock’n’roll revivalists going on – it must be hard on the bands that have been swinging this stuff for years, right’ well, in The Datsuns case, this kind of open ended publicity and hype came at just the right time – and they’re gonna ride it out for as long as they can. There aren’t many bands coming out of Cambridge, a small rural town just outside of Hamilton, New Zealand, you see. These four lads (who have all since taken on the last name ‘Datsun’- yeah just like the Ramones) have been creating a bit of a buzz locally and then nationwide over the past 7 years or so. Inspired by the mid 90s dirty-rock scene’s of Christchurch and Auckland, they’ve been practising their best ron asherton impressions, crazy stage antics and growing their hair out just hoping something like this would come true.
Two years ago things starting going right for these small town boys. They were touring the country as headliners with (Hamilton based rockers) the D4, and even managed a low-scale invasion of Japan through their own self-funding. With a reputation as possibly the best live band that New Zealand’s ever witnessed, the group headed state-side, playing the likes of the SWSX festival and toured extensively on both sides of the atlantic for over a year – catching many an important eye. It all compounded earlier this year when BBC iconoclast John Peel recorded a session with the boys, heaping praise and basically guaranteeing them record label interest. Since then the Brit press have been going crazy for the boys, with the nme touting them as (one of their many) ‘saviours of rock’n’roll’.
Even though they may not be as revolutionary as the hype-machine would lead you to believe, these four boys (standard format: 2 guitars, bass and drummer) put on an incredible live show, and their debut full length is a direct attempt at trying to capture some of that live energy. Recorded over 2 weeks in a small studio in London, it’s a very raw recording full of over the top solo’s, tremendous sing-a-long choruses and explosive guitar riffs. Jumping out of the gate with ‘Sitting The Pretty’ things get off to a fiery start reminiscent of old Wellington band Head Like A Hole, with lead singer Dolph Datsun pulling off some deadpan vocals snares over an ever revolving, churning guitar riff. ‘Motherfucker From Hell’ then sets in, a chugga-chugga rhythm guitar anthem set to the speed of sound. The song flies at an exceptional rate with Dolph screaming like a wild-man, which happens to be very representative of their live performance.
Its pretty obvious the songs are big, loud, and stupid – but they’re performed with so much vigor it doesn’t really matter. When ‘motherfucker..’ breaks down into the typical pause for the vocal conclusion – you can’t help but scream along. Though the songs may have a ‘dumb’ quality to them, they’re nothing short of brilliantly catchy.
‘Lady’ is another anthem-like number, with one hell of a catchy chorus. Excellent rhythm work from Phil (Guitar) And Matt (Drums) really drive the song, with the band wearing their Stooges influence on their sleeve. Both ‘Harmonic Generator’ and their new leadoff single ‘In Love’ sound like Mick Ronson for the 90s. Dolph leads the chorus-heavy slower numbers with boyish backing vocals from the rest of the boys, displaying their talent for glam-styled sing-a-longs, as well. The guitar is kept simple, the drumming is primal, and the vocals are right at the front.
Of course you can’t review such a guitar-focused band without measuring up the lead guitarists performance – and Christian is one of the best rockers out there. He keeps things tight, holding rock-steady to the rhythm of each song, but at every opportune moment pulls of some of the most stunning lead breaks i’ve heard since rock originally went out of favor! Mixing equal parts MC5 and the Stooges (always keeping things clean — i’d doubt if a single effect were used in the album) it’s his powerful lead and driving rhythm that truly makes the album – no other outfit in the current crop of revivalists can match the intensity of his guitar work.
With ‘Fink For The Man’ (a local favorite and original pre-album single) Dolph manages to show he can certainly play too, with tasty opening and break down bass riffs and yet another catchy chorus. His vocals verge on exploding, showing an AC/DC influence as they strain to allow the screaming to come forth. The song builds to boiling point with tremendous performances all round – an excellent recreation of their standard showstopper.
If these guys keep performing with this kind of fire and conviction, i could imagine the world of rock being a little more pleasant to be around. They rock hard and fast and damn the stylistic similarities, because they have as much energy and explosive tendencies that even the stooges themselves showed back in their heyday.