Share NOT FOOD HUNGRY – Labretta Suede And The Motel Six (Charlie Horse Records)
I really should have reviewed this a year ago. It’s been haunting my CD player for at least that long; utterly refusing to find its way into the lost corners of the CD rack. I felt sure that someone else must have noticed this band, this disc or at least that girl. But the world has failed to catch on to the joys of Labretta Suede and it’s high time someone remedied that.
Four-feet-and-change in nine-inch heels, it’s hard to miss Labretta as she struts towards the stage. You’d have to be stoned, lacking in testosterone or just plain jaded not to turn your head. Small, but perfectly formed, her Las Vegas showgirl costume has feathers on it that are bigger than her. She even managed to bring colour to the grisly squalor of the Hopetoun when I saw them way back when.
And did I tell you that this girl can holler? From that diminutive frame spews forth a voice that is two parts Wanda Jackson to one part Iggy Pop. You can feel the hairs on the back of your neck rise up in time to her whoops and yelps before the band slams you against the back wall. Exciting? That’s what I’m clueing you in on here, brothers and sisters. After one listen, you’re gonna want to take that band home on CD (at the very least).
Now there are reasons you might approach this band with a certain degree of suspicion. Firstly, if you are one of these genre craving cats who is not happy until everything fits into its appropriate cardboard box, you’d file this release under “rockabilly-country-punk”. Well, we all know that that’s a musical category that provides safe haven for many an untalented journeyman. There is many a cad who has claimed he digs the Cramps but plays those tunes like he learnt them listening to Status Quo murdering “The Wild Side of Life”.
And let’s not forget the audience this music tends to drag out from under the skirting board. Dreary straight conservatives playing dress ups and doing that silly step, step, step spin dance. It has been said that anyone who doesn’t know how to dance just doesn’t know how to fuck. (All right, it was me who said it but it was before doing this review so it counts as a quote). Watching those office workers don the drag and go through their routines tells you one thing. Fucking any of them would be about as erotic as watching paint dry. If Jerry Lee Lewis hit the stage and set fire to the piano, these “hepcats” would shit in their pants and their vintage dresses, cover their ears and head back to mummy (who they’re still living with at the age of 45). They like their rockabilly safe. The dance floor is etched by years of the same old pirouettes and that’s the way they like it. Everybody in and knowing their place.
What I’m saying here is that this music has, for the most part, had its day. It’s a music where most performers have done everything there is to do with it and are happy to spend their golden years dwelling in and upon the comfortable clichés. To tell you someone has made an exciting album in the genre is tantamount to committing a musical oxymoron. And yet here is Labretta Suede and the Motel Six. Hailing from New Zealand, I’m guessing no-one told them the glory days of rock and roll were over. They haven’t had to hang around a tired old scene of vampire fingerpointers. They dig this shit and they’ll do it their way.
The album begins with “24 hr Pussy Corps”, a song which is – quite frankly – rubbish. Recorded live and so out of character with the rest of the album, you wonder why they included it. If you picked up this album and thought this was what you were getting yourself into, you’d be justified in slinging the disc. At thirty odd seconds, it is still way too long. Ignore this error in judgement and push on.
When, the album proper gets underway and business picks up. Suddenly, it’s a greatest hits collection from out of Nowheresville. Where has this disc been all your life? “Boogaloo” demands you shake and it’d be a dickless wonder who didn’t kick up his heels in delight. “Holler” is the usual tough time on the road song delivered as you’ve never heard it told before as Labretta listens to and bemoans the loneliest sound of them all; rusty bedsprings in the neighbouring motel room.
A standard like “New Orleans” should prove death to the album but this band knows when to go country, when to go rock and roll and, most importantly, when to go punk. The Motel 6 go punk more often than not. They know just when to throw the rule book out of the window. Who said that just because you have the quiff, the shirt and the tattoos, you can’t throw in some feedback and fuzzbox.
Whilst we hear tales of no good men and girls like Betty, it never feels like the old clichés are just being trotted out. This is a really worthwhile album. Of the 12 songs on this album, I have eight on the iPod. I’d like to predict great things for this band. Unfortunately, in a world where mediocrity is the currency of choice, I predict we’ll never see or hear from them again. – Bob Short
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