Quick, jot down a list of the best guitarists ever. You have ten seconds or less. I’m counting. You should be about finished. All right, so drop your pens and pencils. If you happened to list anyone that Rolling Stone or Spin would have on a similar list, thank you and have a good day. We will not need your services any longer. The Old Regime has been plowed time and again, but you know what? A lot of those guys aren’t even recording any more. So for those of you with visions of Electric Ladyland in your minds, just cool it. This is all about the Obscure Regime.
I know, you can’t stand the hipsters who wag their fingers at you and offer to be cooler than everyone else in the current room because they have some recordings you’ve never heard of and probably couldn’t give two shits about because you’re content to be wowed by the likes of Beck, Page, Clapton, Vai, Vaughn, etc., who have all made some good music (with a perhaps appended to Vai’s contributions) but who are also now standing with one foot in the collective grave of old timers with six strings who have found comfort by living in the past and turning out an obligatory album once each decade. And that’s fine. While you’re sipping on your Cosmopolitan in the corner as Truth plays for the tenth time since you first bought it years ago (you wanted to opt for one of Jeff Beck’s more fuse-oid albums, but still wanted to maintain your rock cred), just know that there are indeed some fingerpickers from Elsewhere that could be rocking your ass off right now. Now wipe that drink ring away from your fine mahogany mantle and get hep.
Allow me to introduce you to the fine sounds of Atomic 7 and their latest platter that matters Gowns By Edith Head. If you have to ask who Edith Head is, perhaps you really should just stick to Led Zeppelin II. If you’re asking who Atomic 7 are, so be it. Perhaps you remember a guy by the name of Brian Connelly. No? Did you ever watch The Kids in the Hall? Well then you’re already a Connelly fan. For it was his then-group Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet that penned and played that show’s famous opening theme (otherwise known as “Having An Average Weekend” — quick, head to Kazaa and grab it before you spill that Perrier, and don’t forget to thank me for pointing it out). Connelly has also played about with Neko Case & her Boyfriends, so perhaps you’re familiar with that get up as well. Anyhow, Brian recently gathered together double bassist Clinton Ryder and drummer Mike Andreosso to form Atomic 7. What do they play, you ask? Glad you asked. Let me fill you in.
Firstly, I’d like to turn your attention to Connelly’s guitar playing. All of the tracks on this album are instrumentals, so you’ll be hearing a lot of that guitar. Hear all those riffs and refrains? Those groovy lines that would undoubtedly knot the fingers of some of those Hall of Famers you love so much? Sounds retro? Well, what the hell have you been listening to these past decades? And here I thought you’d be down with it because it is a nod back to those olden days when the guitar meant a little more. Now just listen to it and enjoy.
Atomic 7 are laying down the kinds of grooves that Shadowy Men and similar artists such as Man or Astro-man? have played in the past. That sort of b-movie surf guitar meets spaghetti Western mixed with a dash of irony. But it’s also more than that. This group goes beyond the cool kitsch factor by throwing in all sorts of other genres to groove within the reverbed rhythm of the Gretsch. You’ll be snapping your fingers along in no time. As soon as the first notes of “Chock Full O’ Notes” touch your eardrums, in fact.
And if your attention span has courted the likes of “Stairway to Heaven” more times than you can count, then you’re in luck here. Most of these tunes don’t go longer than two minutes. That means you get a lot of music for your money. Nineteen tracks in all. And with various song titles such as “Your Ironic T-Shirt”, “She’s Got Haggar Party Slacks”, “Save Your Fork There’s Pie”, and “You Ain’t Havin’ Fun Till You’re Dialing 911”, a good time is guaranteed, indeed.
Listen to this trio work for their money with ease as different scenarios play out in your mind. “Your Ironic T-Shirt” could fit well in a spy flick or a Horror Beach Party scenario. “She’s Got Haggar Party Slacks” does Southern Culture On The Skids one better and manages to do a variation of the Temptations’ “Get Ready” while bringing the hammer down. “Day of the Deadbeats” explores a crusty Mexican siesta vibe. A round of margaritas for all as your comfort is imbued by the rich tequila. Showdown at high noon between the bandito and the man in the white hat. This time the good’s going down and the bad guys win.
The ever-lovin’ lickety-split rhythm of “Her Sassy” is a high point. Kind of like “Hey Good Lookin'” meets the coconut crème pie crowd at the local truck stop on Highway 9. Blaze a dusty trail, eighteen-wheeler. And for those of you who actually bought into all that “space age bachelor party” bullshit that was so prevalent during the late ’90s, you’ll certainly be bobbing your head and Manhattan to the cool strains of “Swinger’s Ear”. Henry Mancini could have done no better, I promise.
There’s the bucket seat rumble of “Artistry” that sounds like it could go well with a hell bent teens-on-speed flick now showing at the local drive-in. There’s the “how does he play that so fast and precise” lightning fast slinging of notes on “Hairbone” that will make you want to cut a rug. And then there’s that aforementioned “You Ain’t Havin’ Fun Till You’re Dialing 911” that will certainly win you over with its mix of old and new, don’t step on those blue suede shoes good times. Yes, Brian Connelly is a guitar god, though I’m sure he would probably just nod his head and keep on playing if you told him that.
So to sum up, you have your Atomic 7 here with their . . . Gown By Edith Head album. You have 19 instrumental tracks that will inject your brain with all sorts of Technicolor images while they play. You have Brian Connelly kicking you ass with his electric guitar in a way that it has needed kicking for a long time coming. You have Clinton Ryder and Mike Andreosso riding shotgun on the rhythm section and keeping up with Connelly, which should surely earn them a bonus in their paychecks. So go ahead and put down all those dusty old albums that they killed long ago on your favorite classic rock radio station and pick up this new band playing something old that is actually new. You can’t go wrong. As long as you get rid of that turtleneck sweater and vow to stop shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch, that is.