[9 March 2003]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Yeah, another one of those bands. Do we really need more of this stuff, this revival of raunchy guitar riffs, fuzzed-out solos, and blatant worship of The Stooges and The MC5? According to major labels and the slavering British press, of course we do. New Zealand’s The Datsuns are yet another heavily-hyped band of unpretentious, straight-ahead rock ‘n’ rollers to come our way, and like their countrymen, The D4, their debut album is finally hitting our shores. The thing is, is there any point to this kind of music anymore? The tidal wave of all those “The” bands was fresh two years ago, but now, we’re getting sucked into an undertow of two-bit power chords, some rather unspectacular guitar solos, a lot of testosterone-laced singing, with very little genuine songwriting skill to pull us up to safety. What can The Datsuns give us that we haven’t heard a million times since Deep Purple’s Machine Head?
The truth is, not much, really. But man, do they try hard to impress us. With their long, greasy hair, their mutton-chopped faces, and the bellbottoms, these guys just wanna rock like it’s 1971 again. It’s pure driving music, the type that’s fun to listen to while blasting through a deserted stretch of prairie highway, but it’s also something you wind up immediately forgetting the second you stop for a bathroom break. In some ways, they’re better than their compatriots in The D4: they sound ferocious, they seem like better musicians, and the album packs more of a visceral wallop. But on the other hand, half of The Datsuns’ songs sound so derivative and trivial, that they end up blending into one another, sounding like just another endless tribute to the stoner rockers of old, with no real ideas of their own.
There’s still some great stuff here, though. “Lady” is a slimy, raunchy exercise in New York Dolls rock, the likes of which we haven’t heard much of since the late ‘80s. “Harmonic Generator” combines a robotic riff and a great stoner rock rhythm section with some enticing female vocals that back up bassist-singer Dolf De Datsun’s over-the-top vocals (which sound like a cross between Rush’s Geddy Lee and The White Stripes’ Jack White). The band’s lyric-writing skills are hilariously awful on this song, as Dolf howls, “Wearing next to nothing she’s out of control / She likes to shake what she got from her head to her toe / She got big yellow eyes lighting up like Xmas / Turning tricks baby / Electric Mistress.”
The Datsuns are truly at their best when they stick to mimicking the styles of Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. “What Would I Know” has a great riff by guitarists Christian Datsun and Phil Datsun (something tells me these guys aren’t exactly brothers), reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore’s classic riffing during Deep Purple’s “Mark II” period, and Dolf’s screaming hits some wicked heights, as the song concludes with a fun jam that you wish would only keep going for a few more minutes instead of simply fading out. “Out of Touch”, and especially the raucous “In Love”, totally go for that organ-laced, “Easy Livin’” sound from 30 years ago; it’s songs like these that make you wish that the Hammond organ was used more in hard rock, as it provides the songs’ memorable main riffs, while Dolf and his cohorts trade off some insanely stupid, yet fun call-and-response choruses.
But that’s pretty much it. Songs like “Fink For the Man” and “MF From Hell” want to be great hard rock songs, and they come really close, with their glam metal riffs and frenetic pace, but they just sounds empty, and in the case of the latter song, merely a lame, pubescent excuse to say “motherfucker” on record. By the time you get through the last couple of songs, you just want it to end, as The Datsuns just go through the motions, recycling glam rock cliches that bands like Faster Pussycat perfected 15 years ago.
This album is energetic and lots of fun at times, but the majority of us have heard this all before. Too many “new garage” bands are focusing on big, dumb riffs, instead of taking that classic sound and trying to fashion something new out of it, and though The Datsuns show signs of some real hooks, they end up getting mired in boring rock posturing. In the end, you’re better off buying a copy of Machine Head before shelling out cash for this one.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/datsuns-st/