HIPBONE SLIM vs SIR BALD - Hipbone Slim & The Kneetremblers, Louie & The Louies, The Kneejerk Reactions, The Legs (Dirty Water Records)
Two CDs, four bands, one common denominator: Sir Bald Diddley. Or is it Hipbone Slim? There's a severe case of spilt personality going down over these 40 tracks and it's prime stuff for lovers of the garage/surf/beat/exotic rock genres.

It's a feast without a McCrappy Meal in sight and there's almost too much to swallow in one sitting. Sir Bald/Hipbone has a voice once described as "Ricky Nelson gone very wrong". It's hard to top that but does "Dion on a dextroamphetamine run" go close? I think Sir Bald/Hipbone could sing the phone book backwards and still sound tolerable, but I like my vocalists with character.

It also helps to have killer players - various elements of these engine rooms have graced stages or studios with Dick Dale, the Pretty Things, Holly Golightly, Billy Childish, Link Wray and Dale Hawkins.

It's all recorded with analogue gear - at places like London's Toe Rag Studios. Some bands make too big a deal of authenticity, the problem being most of them are wankers who can't play. In Si Bald's case, analogue is how it had to be. The idea of running a song like "I Hear An Echo" through some ProTunes plug-in is like the paparazzi shopping topless photos of Prince Charles' missus, Camilla. There's just no market for things no-one needs to see, or hear.

The four faces of "Hipbone Slim vs Sir Bald" are very different with only some occasional treading on someone else's toes. The Kneetremblers are greaser R & B in the '60s sense of the term. The twang is the thang and they're equally at home in the lounge room as long as the decor is exotic. Louie and The Louies mix twangy instrumentals with harder frat rock.

The Kneejerk Reactions play like they're out to rumble with flick-knives. The Anglo-Spanish The Legs are raucous vocals over floor toms, bass throb and wild surf guitar. In other words, stuff that cannot be tamed. Word is the Spanish coves playing with Sir Bald are garage-punkers - and it shows.

I could go through and name every track (easy when you have a listing in front of you) and deliver an ill-informed treatise on what influences are at play and what the lyrics mean, but when the words go "Put a rocket up it baby/We're going to rock tonight" there isn't much point. And I mean that in the best possible way. Just get off your arse and grab it. - The Barman


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THE KNEEANDERTHAL SOUNDS OF - Hipbone Slim & The Knee Tremblers (Voodoo Rhythm)
No sense in being amazed by the diversity and quality of Voodoo Rhythm's stable, even after playing this one non-stop for weeks. Hipbone Slim (better known as Sir Bald Diddley by some) hails from the rootsy end of the label roster and this album is the ultimate reverb party mix.

Slim and his crack band (drummer Bash Brand and Gez Gerrard) set off on a genre sleigh ride on "The Kneeanderthal Sounds Of" and stop off at more destinations than you can poke a tuning fork at. From the burlesque shakedown of "No Great Shakes" to the Tom Mix movie soundtrack outtake "No End In Sight" and the surfing hotrod "Camel Neck", this is an album that fulfils its ambitious intention of being mixed-up, crazy and just godamned great.

Sir Bald wrote the lot and if most of it's re-invention of a period of music that started with skiffle and ended with beat, that's only right and fair. It's the core of what's going down but just when you think you have it nailed, he and his Kneetremblers draw on Delta blues ("I'm The Leg") or Chicago blues ("Dog Leg") to throw you off the scent.

There's minimal augmentation - sax on "Untamed Love", otherworldly piano on the spooky "Dig That Grave" - but what's judiciously added fits just right. Hipbone Slim is one adept vocalist who can holler or croon with the best of them, and Bash Brand's skilful work behind the traps is something else to behold.

Production is by the band at an East London analogue establishment called Gizzard Studios. The results are live-sounding and (dare I say it) authentic.

The title's a misnomer - the raucous intro "Standoff is the most abrasive tune here but the rest strike a chord of familiarity without ever slipping into blandness. Truth be told, you'd have to be a hard judge not to be convinced most of "The Kneeanderthal Sounds Of" has immeasurably more life than anything you'll ever cock an ear to on 99 percent of today's radio stations. - The Barman



THE SHEIK SAID SHAKE - Hipbone Slim & The Knee Tremblers (Voodoo Rhythm)
The veteran cast playing on this has been around since Sir Cliff Richard was in the womb so it's no wonder they sound like voodoo-rockabilly gods. Names like Link Wray, The Kaisers, the Milshakes, the Headcoats, Holly Golightly, the Mighty Caesars and the Pop Rivets adorn individual members' curriculum vitae, so don't say you weren't warned.

No surprises here, just good steamy fun. Vocalist Sir Bald Diddley twangs away like Duane Eddy and leerily croons and carouses in equal measures, Gez Gerrard's bass is more upright than a businessman on vacation with a pallet-load of Viagara and Bash Brand anchors the traps to the floor like he's meaning them to stay there. What's not to like?

Fourteen tracks take us through beat, blues and rockabilly trash territory (with the odd instrumental tossed in.) Stylistically, it's a Cook's Tour where you make lots of stops in different places but you're in safe hands.

For example, "Put a Rocket Up It" is the archetypal greaser, wearing a leather jacket and carrying a flick-knife. His accomplice is "One Legged Rock", a skinny-legged rockabilly stomp.Their statement of intent is "Evil Clutches". You've heard many of these songs before with different titles - which isn't to say Hipbone Slim plays it safe. He just doesn't break new ground.

If you're wary of bands who record this sort of music with "authentic" gear in analogue studios you'd better look elsewhere. Hey - Simon Cowell is probably happy to hang out with someone sharing his musical tastes. The Knee Tremblers are as anally retentive as they come regarding the application of regressive production ethos - and of course you can get this stuff on vinyl.

There's not a whole lot more to say about a record that's equal parts Chuck Berry, Hasil Adkins, Carl Perkins and Charlie Feathers. The feel is undeniably retro and irresistibly fun. If that's your bag, well you know what to do. The Voodoo Rhythm operators are standing by now. - The Barman



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