New Duncan Imperials: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas

[24 March 1997]

By Jason Thompson

Booze makes the band

You know, there’s nothing better than kicking back over the weekend, specifically on a Friday night, and having a few friends up while you imbibe various bottles marked XXX and listen to the New Duncan Imperials. For here is a band that is the soundtrack to any rowdy night, a bar room gargantuan trio with rockabilly chops and just enough grease to keep things running at an efficient pace. People ask me what I love about Chicago. I reply, “I’ve never been there, but I can tell you what I didn’t like—The Bozo Show.” But then it dawns on me that the New Duncan Imperials are the true darlings of Chicago! Not even the group Chicago is as cool as these cats. But then, that Chicago isn’t as cool as a Steamer from Plopz.

Pravda Records has been kind to NDI. Why, they’ve even been nice enough to issue every one of their albums (even though some money must be exchanged under the table each time they do). Whenever Pigtail Dick, Skipper, and Goodtime enter the big executive offices at Pravda (which is actually just a cooler in a meat packing facility, so I’m told), the CEO just shakes his head, laughs, and exchanges a few six packs of fossilized Hamms beer for the master tapes. Before you know it, there’s a new NDI album not on the shelves of your local music store, and you’re lucky enough if you can find them. Those guys at Pravda sure are swell!

In 1997, a booze exchange was made for the release of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas, NDI’s millionth release. Well, not really their millionth, but at the rate these guys are going, they’re gonna wind up having more LPs than Fat Elvis does, even posthumously! A collection of 15 good time tracks that are fit for any shindig, barn dance, teen hop at the local community center, or just sitting around getting inebriated to, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas is another quality nail in the NDI coffin. One of these days, these guys are going to get too clever for themselves and become the next Supertramp! Or not. Thank God.

Go ahead and laugh, but the intergalactic love/hate song “Pathetica” really makes those kids swing! If it were to be played on American Bandstand, during “Rate-A-Record”, you would no doubt win a pair of Jensen car audio speakers and a book of gift certificates to KFC just for saying how much you really loved dancing to it. And you would say that, because, as I said, “Pathetica” really swings, especially during those choruses when the band chimes in with all those “la-la-las” in harmony. Harmony! Whoda thunk NDI could pull it off? Well, I did! But, you didn’t, so that’s why I’m telling you.

You try to keep the house from burning down when “Pesticide” kicks in. Listen as Pigtail Dick wails away on that big ol’ guitar and Goodtime bashes one of those patented “Smallest Drum Kits (tm)” as Skipper chug-a-lugs on that sleek bass! Find it in your hearts to throw some money in their straw hats as the boys croon “Tip-A-Cow”, which they suddenly bludgeon to death when it turns into a furious speed rocker. Southern Culture On The Skids, look out! You have no place in The Windy City, and neither did Phil Donahue!

It can be argued that such wailin’ rockers like “Potato Chicks” cause the youth of America to go out and start rebelling against the local J-V squads, but I just won’t hear of that. No, sir. This kind of music makes kids go out and buy Slim Jims and pork rinds. NDI is all about Swank, and no, not that magazine, either (although they could be). We won’t rule it out just yet. On the other hand, just take the advice of “Dream Of Japan”, won’t you? “Shoes make the man/Booze makes the band”. This is serious advice from three sages who know no celestial or astral boundaries, my friends. This is high quality styro-product with no CFCs to burn out the ozone layer. Although I’m sure the sheer volume of gas left behind by NDI’s fans will take care of that on its own.

I won’t even bother explaining the title of “Nose Maul Problem”. All you need to know is that Pigtail can pin the tail on Eddie Van Hagar any day he likes. He can play that git-box just like Chuck Berry, or the wannabe “look at me, I helped water down swing music and make it kool for kidz” Brian Setzer, or even Jimi Hendrix’s long lost fourth half-cousin Brad. He’s that amazing. And I don’t even have to begin to tell you how breathtaking the booty-shaking melody of “Love-A-Rama” actually is. If I did, your minds would melt because let me tell you, it’s just as perfect as nabbing a hundred bucks from grandma’s purse and then watching her put the blame on grandpa. Boy, I could tell you some stories.

Some parents have been outraged that their kids have been listening to songs like “Sex Drive” and “Makin’ Out With My Dad”. They realized they weren’t half as offensive as those Eminem and Limp Bizkit CDs. “Why don’t you play that Corn Cob band, Johnny, so that I might be able to get worried about your personality warping from listening to a second rate band with an ugly lead singer who can’t even rock and roll?” The mothers say that, you know. “If you keep playing those nice Duncans, I might have to steal those LPs for myself!” Yep, NDI strikes again by bridging the generation gaps parents so desperately want to join together during those troubled teen years. Well, now they can.

And if the mayhem of “Right String Baby” doesn’t make you finally believe that Kid Rock is so not rock, that he’ll soon be auditioning for the part of the Underwood Devil, then may Rock and Roll Heaven have mercy on your soul. No, don’t come crying when you hear the brutal chunk of “Tank”, or the tender lovin’ sympathies of “I, Janitor”. It will be just too much, and you’ll be left with nothing but a puddle of your own tears and a personal handy pack of Kleenex to soak it up with.

Which leaves “It’s Popular”. NDI doesn’t need to sell themselves short, or out. They know they’re the Kings of Chicago. You won’t see them walking around with Kurt Cobain memorial shirts on and weeping over Jim Morrison’s so-called poetry. No! You won’t find them on MTV, while fifty girls wearing “JC is sexy!” placards scream their heads off in hopes that ‘N Sync will be number one on the TRL countdown for the zillionth day in a row. No, you’ll just find NDI rocking the house down whenever you play their music. Pigtail Dick, Skipper, and Goodtime have been kind enough not to forget the rock. Thank them for that.

And thank Pravda for all those beer exchanges that allow you to hear all this great music. Why, NDI have even released their latest record, Sticky thanks to a couple cases of Jagermeister and a half dozen meat sticks and a can of smokehouse almonds. This is rock and roll, dear readers. Indie label rock with no pretensions about being indie. Don’t ever worry about the New Duncan Imperials selling out. They simply can’t (for monetary as well as employment reasons). And well, every great rock ‘n’ roll band knows you have to work for beer eventually. But that’s another NDI song on another NDI album. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vegas isn’t that exact album, but it’s just as good. So take a swig and taste the rock…and don’t forget to burp.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/newduncanimperials-in/