Friday, April 07, 2006


A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 7, 2006

The Yayhoos are loud, irreverent, a little crazy, and a lot of fun. And in case anyone’s forgotten, those qualities are the basic building blocks of rock ’n’ roll. Their new album, Put the Hammer Down, is a boozy, sometimes bluesy, guitar-crazed testament to the gospel of good timing.

“Gettin’ drunk, gettin’ naked, gettin’ laid, and gettin’ out,” is the refrain of one of the songs here. That pretty much sums up the spirit of Put the Hammer Down.

The band has an impressive résumé. It consists of singer Dan Baird (formerly of the Georgia Satellites); guitarist Eric “Roscoe” Ambel (who has played with Joan Jett, The Del-Lords, and for the past several years, Steve Earle); drummer Terry Anderson (The Olympic Ass Kickin’ Team); and bassist Keith Christopher (another ex-Georgia Satellite, who’s also played with Billy Joe Shaver, Paul Westerberg, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and others.)

As in their first effort, Fear Not the Obvious, The Yayhoos sing of a world where it’s always Saturday night, the girls are all pretty, and the beer is cheap and plentiful. It starts off with “Where’s Your Boyfriend At,” a celebration of adulterous potential. I’m not sure why the instrumental bridge alludes to the “Batman” theme.

“Would It Kill You” has some fun with domestic discord. “Would it kill you to take that noose off my neck/Would it kill you to stop acting like a wreck?”

There’s even a song here (“Everything/Anything”) that introduces the boys in the band: “My name is Roscoe, and I am the boss/Without me the Minnow would be lost ... My name is Dan, I talk loud and a lot/Without me this band wouldn’t rock.” This track would be the obvious choice for a theme if The Yayhoos got their own weekly sitcom.

While most of the songs are original, The Yayhoos do a couple of inspired covers — The O’Jays’ “Love Train,” which features various Yayhoos trading vocals, and an especially exhilarating version of the B-52s’ “Roam.”

Also noted

*Sex, Fashion and Money by The Grabs. Eleni Mandell has a voice that can make men melt. Her heartbreaking, sultry alto, as heard on her solo albums (I have Afternoon and Country for True Lovers, produced by ex-Santa Fe guitarman Tony Gilkyson), will give you good dreams. And her version of “Muriel” on a Tom Waits tribute album a few years ago is stunningly gorgeous.

The Grabs is an Eleni side project. It’s a garage-y little rock quartet featuring guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards — with Mandell’s voice out front.

One could almost compare her voice to that of Neko Case, who breaks out of her country restraints and rocks as a member of The New Pornographers.

Except, while I probably like Eleni’s voice more than I do Neko’s (is that a gasp I hear out there in Reader Land?), the Grabs ain’t no New Pornographers.

It’s not a bad effort. Mandell says it was a lot of fun to record, and I believe her. Still, I don’t think this musical backdrop is the best forum for Mandell’s voice. But there are a couple of high points worth mentioning.

“Movie Star” is a put-down of some slick third-rate Steve McQueen who tries to put the moves on the singer at a party, (“Then you asked for my number, or you ordered me to give it.”) It’s got a guitar hook right out of “Then He Kissed Me” and a refrain with ba-ba-ba-ba-ba background vocals that take me back to the late ’60s, when bands like The Association roamed the earth. And the faux doo-wop of “Hope Is for the Hopeful” is a little hokey but ultimately irresistible.

As for the best-written song, that’s got to be Mandell’s “This Life,” where a forbidden crush has the singer fantasizing about reincarnation. “Last life you were my teacher/Next life you’ll be my double feature.”

So check out The Grabs. But not until you hear Mandell’s other albums mentioned above.

*The Sunny Side of the Moon: The Best of Richard Cheese. Remember Bill Murray as Nick the Lounge Singer, who belted out happy-hour versions of songs like the Star Wars theme and “You Gotta Serve Somebody” on Saturday Night Live back in the ’70s?

Remember Pat Boone’s In a Metal Mood (I liked Tiny Tim’s version of “Stairway to Heaven” better) or Paul Anka’s Rock Swings (should have been called “Smells Like Middle-Aged Spirit”)? Then you’ve got the basic idea of Richard Cheese.

Cheese does lounge and big-band versions of songs like “Rape Me” (OK, he does Nirvana better than Anka), “Baby Got Back,” (it’s a big-butt bossa nova!) “Gin and Juice” (give me The Gourds!) and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.”

It’s fun for awhile. In fact, hearing Mr. Cheese croon profanity after profanity in Slipknot’s “People Equals S**t” is nothing short of hilarious.

But the concept gets old quickly. You wouldn’t really want to sit down and listen from start to finish.

Down in The Flood: Hundred Year Flood returns to Santa Fe on Saturday, April 8, with a CD-release party for their excellent new album, Blue Angel, which I’ve been playing a lot lately on my radio shows and which Rob DeWalt reviews in this week’s Pasa Tempos.

The show opens with the Texas Sapphires, a country group that last month was named “Best New Austin Band” at the annual Austin Chronicle Music Awards.

The party starts at 9 p.m. at the Santa Fe Brewing Company Pub & Grill (27 Fire Place, on Frontage Road off I-25 south of the city).

$10 gets you in the door. For another $5, they’ll throw in a copy of Blue Angel.For more information, check out the Brewing Company's Web site or call Santa Fe Brewing Company at 424-3333.

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