Friday, May 2, 2008

Lost Gem Of The 80s #3: Brian Setzer - "The Knife Feels Like Justice" (1986)

Never one to let a trend pass him by, Brian Setzer’s first post-Stray Cats solo album touched on the heartland rock he saw acts like Bruce Springsteen, REM, and U2 (and to a lesser extent, The Alarm and John Fogerty) making boatloads of money on; singing about the trials and travails of the American West. So, he traded in the rock-a-billy of the Cats for the jangly, Byrds-y guitars and earnestness of that same Farm Aid-ish 80s politics that was the style of the day. Knife finds him in a weird holding pattern (he would breakout the Brian Setzer Orchestra about 7 years later and reunite woth the Cats off and on), looking for a new identity (or muse, to be honest) to hook himself to. He would never go back to this sound again.

Knife straddles a fine line between curio and legit release. So, you can ask yourself, “after hearing it once out of curiosity, is it worth putting on again?” The answer is yes. It isn’t groundbreaking and it doesn’t compare to all the similar albums of the era, but the songs are strong and Setzer’s a pro no matter what genre he tries out.

A scan of the tracklist will tip you off to what you’re in for with titles like “Haunted River” (check out the pompi-mullet, not to mention the out-of-his-mind guitar playing), “Radiation Ranch”, “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams”, and especially the title track. And, can you guess who the “Three Guys” are of the song by the same name? Yep, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, “three guys I like the most”. Huh? Brian Setzer is saying this? What happened to “Sexy + 17” or “Rumble In Brighton”? He traded in the Cadillacs for songs about “outlaws”, “raging storms” and “blood and whiskey” running through the veins.

The album is pretty hard to find, but it’s a good one.
The Nugget - "The Knife Feels Like Justice". It was the single and still sounds like a barn burner. Plus, Brian channels his inner Peter Buck, which is always good. "Haunted River" is also excellent.

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