Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Batusis - "Batusis"

What do you get when you combine luminaries from two of the most influential protopunk bands in history, aged 35 years since the pinnacle of their influence? The answer, though more complex than stated simply here, is about what you would expect.

Batusis is, at its core, legendary guitarist of Rocket from the Tombs and the Dead Boys Cheetah Chrome and founding member of the New York Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain. Adding to the glam-punk-rock-'n'-roll resume of the Batusis co-frontmen is the addition of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ rhythm section, Thommy Price on drums and Enzo Penizzotto on bass.

But back to the initial inquiry: It would be hard to imagine aging glam-punks writing songs that weren't steeped in the blues scale, and that’s exactly what you get with the opener, a cover of Davie Allan and the Arrows’ staple "Blues' Theme," complete with replica motorcycle revving. It also wouldn’t be surprising if there was lewd, fairly objectifying fawning about a wayward female, captured here in the mid-tempo rock 'n’ roll stroller “What You Lack in Brains.” Sylvain peppers the track with some complementary piano bangs while the lyrics gush on the superficial side of feminine allure: “What you lack in brains / You got in looks / What you lack in brains / You got it in the tush.” With catcalls, eye-rolling truisms and all, the song is a bit of a cringer, but clearly within the glam tradition.

The best track of the four-song self-titled EP is the nearly five-minute-long, fuzzy punk number “Bury You Alive,” which alternates between a flat vocal delivery and untamed guitar soloing among the disc's only political slant: “In the desert kids are dying for the lies you told / Someday you’ll have hell to pay, but that’s a long way down the road.” “Big Cat Stomp” rounds out the four with a slick bluesy instrumental arrangement that is lively enough but not entirely satisfying.

Although just a taste of the possibilities that emerge from uniting two of the great early punk rock minds of the 1970s, Batusis lays out their own set of mannerisms and style. Though the project is clearly lacking in originality and is rife with glam-punk platitudes, it’s a pleasure to be hearing the nascent project of such seasoned veterans.

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