LA TERRA BRUCIA - Mutzhi Mambo (Nicotine Records)
A rootsy, rockabilly-influenced rock 'n' roll band from Italy singing almost exclusively in their mother tongue is a different prospect, but Mutzhi Mambo cuts through the language barrier and delivers something universally understandable on this long player from the land of pizza and espresso coffee.

We might think English is the language of rock 'n' roll but there are pockets of bands in Finland, France and Italy that beg to differ. Being lingually challenged, I'm hard pressed to tell you if the parental advice sticker (also in Italian) on the front of "La Terra Brucia" is merited. I just love liner notes that call drums "batteria". In the end, it's the music that matters (and have you ever tried to decipher what Thee Michelle Gun Elephant is singing?)

"Donna Pitone" is a skanky, walking blues that rises up and rocks out to cool piano accompaniment, while "Una Cotta" is a '60s rocker that chugs along on Lewsi Balsarmo's coarse vocals with a taught guitar line leading the way. It takes a European band to mix up the music stylistically without resorting to punk parody or scum rock. "Surfin' Soda" is the obligatory instrumental surf cover that comes across more rockin' than waxin'.

"Memphis Tenesee" could well be Thee Michelle Gun Elephant playing through small valve amps after an intensive Italian-as-a-second-language course, while "Chicken John" takes a slight detour to the beach, too, with its Ventures guitar trimmings. Mutzhi Mambo briefly drop into English mode for a strident "Personal Jesus" while the other cover, a souped-up "Alligator Wine", stays true to the band's national tongue but employs some off-the-wall sax to up its rating in the weird stakes.
- The Barman