Review Summary: "But then again, who does?"
The term "revival" has become such an overused music buzzword that many people are getting sick of even its mere mention, but what's more annoying is how quickly the term is forced onto many of today's acts. What, just because Avenged Sevenfold channel Iron Maiden and Metallica in certain riffs and song structures, they're automatically considered an 80s metal revival act? Bullshit; to me, it's about having the aesthetic
as well. The Darkness and Steel Panther are way easier to consider a revival band because their fashions and overall vibe are great representations of the excess and image of the music (hair metal) they're paying homage to, ALONG with the music they play. Same with Lana Del Rey; while her music incorporates more modern hip-hop elements, her overall style and image remain highly indebted to classic 60s pop stars such as Janis Joplin and Nancy Sinatra. And now we've got an L.A. rock band known as So-Cal Rocket Dynamics, who combine punk, rockabilly, surf rock, and occasionally metal and country, but primarily evoke the classic rockabilly vibe throughout their new album Too Bad She Won't Live.
For being semi-newcomers (they formed in 2007, but only made one album prior to this one), So-Cal have a distinctly vintage flavor as heard through the presumably 50s-inspired and live-sounding production quality. Not only this, but bassist Rob Coddington prefers to use an upright bass for this then-trio (they recruited a new drummer after recording this album) instead of a bass guitar. Make no mistake though, the punk elements are very prominent on this record; songs like "I Killed Johnny" and the powerful opening title track are particularly fast, with the former featuring a chorus of energetic gang shouts reminiscent of Dropkick Murphys. The coolest thing about this album is that, no matter what genre the band attempt, the 50s/60s "car-culture"/diner vibe is still present at almost all times. At the same time, its songwriting is good enough for it to avoid sounding dated, even with its surf rock-inspired guitar phrasing and Link Wray or Elvis Presley-inspired song structures. Despite the record's lean toward classic punk elements, much of the music remains more chord-based with its guitar work and many of the drum rhythms swing more than giving a straightforward 4/4 feel.
Where this album's quality lies is in just how much damn fun it is. Whether you get the fast-paced hard rocking rockabilly of "Girl Named Kerosene" or the bass-heavy lumbering of "The Monster Inside Me," the overall product is really enjoyable and gets you moving. That's not to say the record isn't with its more serious moments, like the more melancholic closing ballad "The Way You Break My Heart," but the main focus is really on the fun parts. The back of the CD case says "Long live rock n' roll," and this quote is really followed up 100% through their music. Unfortunately, this is where one of the flaws lies... the fact that there's an occasional lack of variation between songs. Particularly around the middle of the record, things just start to blend together after a while as the same guitar styles/chords are used and initially-awesome and charismatic vocal work by Rich Contadino gets a bit repetitive. Luckily, one thing that stays consistently impressive throughout the experience is the overall instrumental work; each musician maintains a high level of precision and energy, and the 60s Beach Boys-esque tone of the lead guitar work is admittedly really cool to listen to (despite, as I said, being somewhat repetitious after a while).
Your enjoyment of Too Bad She Won't Live might depend on how you much like vintage music, but unlike many other classic genre revival acts today, these guys seem really immersed in the old music scenes they're evoking here. That alone gives the record a certain charm, but adding such a nice variety of genres is like icing on the cake. Also, many of the tracks are pretty short so there's a high replay value to the experience. Any way you slice it, So-Cal Rocket Dynamics have created a really fun rockabilly-inspired record that really brings the energy and charisma of that genre to a modern audience. Grab a beer, give Too Bad She Won't Live a spin, and live it up!