To these ears, New Zealand rockers the Datsuns are stuck between genres: they’re too garage for hard rock fans, and they’re too hard rock for the garage scene. (Yes, I’m splitting hairs, but it’s true.) As a result, they seem to be scorned by both camps. Garage fans are put off by the band’s arena-ready, late ‘70s-aping, cock rock, and rock fans wonder why the Datsuns don’t rock harder and why all the bandmembers insist on sharing the last name “Datsun”. And both sides are curious as to why the Datsuns don’t bring better songs to the table. Undaunted, the band soldiers on with their sophomore release, the all-to-aptly-titled Outta Sight/Outta Mind. (And I’m officially the millionth reviewer to make that wisecrack.)
One of the other considerations swirling around the Datsuns is their utter lack of irony. They like their guitars loud and their worldview simple: fightin’ and fuckin’ is all a man needs. The obvious touchstone here is AC/DC, but that band transcended its own uncoolness (read: near-comical earnestness about ludicrous topics) to become incredibly cool and free to do as it pleased. The Datsuns haven’t earned such a free pass yet. Part of me likes that the Datsuns are 100% serious about doing their own thing, regardless of what the scene demands, but when their “thing” amounts to a heap of riffs leftover from the Carter administration, I can’t get that excited.
The band—Dolf, Christian, Phil and Matt—is tighter sounding than they were on their 2002 self-titled debut—lead guitarist Christian shreds on the solo to leadoff track “Blacken My Thumb”; “Hong Kong Fury” marries a killer hook to a martial drumbeat and comes up with one of OS/OM‘s best tunes—but nothing inspires air guitar quite the way “Motherfucker From Hell” and “Harmonic Generator” did on their debut. Instead, we’re left with lead singer Dolf muttering his way through both the lumbering, disjointed “Cherry Lane” and the slightly poppier “What I’ve Lost” (Note to Dolf: You were not meant to wear the Sensitive Soul mantle), as well as the dopey metal waltz, “Lucille”. Otherwise, the album is full of perfectly serviceable songs that are forgotten as soon as they end: the strutting “Messin’ Around”, where the band is at its most AC/DC-esque (and where Dolf lets loose a few yowls that you’d think Brian Johnson would’ve already copyrighted); “Get Up! (Don’t Fight It)”, which is more of the same, only played faster, and the L.A. glitter punk of “Don’t Come Knocking”. It’s all so Been There, Heard That Before.
Who am I to give career advice, but the Datsuns could use doses of both pop craftsmanship (a la the Wildhearts) and songwriting/showmanship (like the Darkness). Those bands tread the same territory as the Datsuns, only with much sharper results. That said, Dolf does manage one perfect lyric, on “That Sure Ain’t Right”: “I got better things to do with my time.”