From frigid Minnesota, where even hepcats better have down jackets, comes one of the freshest, finest, least-stylized and most creative acts in rockabilly today.
Sound preposterous? Well, let's not forget that the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" has already produced its fair share of turbo-charged rockin' rebels -- hallowed acts including Eddie Cochran, The Fendermen, The Trashmen, and Marvin Rainwater. Sure, it's been a while since their heyday, and other musics have ruled the roost in Minnesota -- and the nation, for that matter. We've had the righteously angry folk-rock of Bob Dylan, the salty and authentic blues of Koerner, Ray & Glover, the fretboard fireworks of Leo Kottke, the homey folk of Garrison Keillor and his crowd, the paisley funk of a short fella once known as Prince as well as the D.I.Y. punk of Husker Du, the Replacements, and Soul Asylum. Minnesota music was booming, yet there wasn't a ducktail or pompadour in sight. For shame.
But the lean years of Twin Cities rockabilly have ended with a bang, as this fearless foursome displayed on their last laser effort, The Stimulating Sounds of The Vibro Champs. Perry Mason himself couldn't have made a stronger case for the breadth and vitality of hopped-up bop music in the '90s. This here splendiferous sophomore serving from The Vibro Champs proves that their Stimulating Sounds session was no fluke.
There's a vibrant rockabilly underground in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, and The Vibro Champs guitarist/singer Dave Wolfe -- the boy with the stiletto sideburns -- is at the center of it all. He's booking bands, promoting shows, putting together compilation CDs, nagging bar owners to take a chance on "roots" music, and even playing co-social director at Rockabilly Bowling night -- I kid you not. Most importantly, Wolfe and his partners in happy crime -- ex-tough guy Alan Subola, bull fiddle teaser-pleaser Emmet Keefe, and drum dynamo Gaz Weiss -- are tearin' it up on stages all across the U.S.A.
Stranger Than You Think represents a hip distillation of the band's best new work. You get a bit of blue-eyed R&B, some stray surf licks, a smidgen of jazz, and some moonshine country crooning. Plus plenty of inspired lunacy, especially on the unlisted tracks. But, it's ultimately rockabilly with a capital "R" that'll make The Vibro Champs listeners stand up and cheer.
You want retro? Check out the 1000 garage bands ineptly recycling Velvet Underground moves. You want a "roots" sound that's decidedly '90s? Then slap on Stranger Than You Think, and get ready to get buzzed. Tingled. Vibrated through and through. Shout bamalama and breathe hard, baby.