Some poor jaded souls spend a lot of time whining about what happened to “real rock and roll.” Those folks have clearly never heard Screamin’ Rebel Angels, a band that combines old-time rockabilly sounds with punk attitude on the new album Heel Grinder.
One of the rules of making an album is to try to grab the listener’s attention immediately. This band does that. The first thing you hear on this album is Laura Palmer doing a whoop sound that’s not uncommon in rockabilly. This is followed immediately by a shout of “My soooooooul!” From there the melody takes off at a breakneck pace. It is equal parts rockabilly and early rock and roll (be sure to pay attention to the guitar work) punctuated by the occasional “Wooo” that is straight out of the Little Richard songbook. Frankly, it’s hard to ask for a better attention grabber than this.
There is a rough, growling tone to Palmer’s vocals that makes it sound like she is always ready for a fight. “Hands Off” is a good example. This is a hard-driving (with a tempo somewhere between Reverend Horton Heat and Three Bad Jacks) rockabilly song with the familiar theme of warning some woman to keep her hands off of a man that isn’t hers.
While most of the songs are fueled up both in tempo and volume, there are some exceptions. “Brassy Brown” is an upbeat song in which Palmer provides some sweet vocals that stand in contrast to the loud and tough vocals in other songs. This is a song that is perfect for getting couples on the dance floor. “Something on Your Mind” is another song that is toned down. Granted Palmer still does some rock n roll shouting in this song, but mostly this sounds like the kind of song that might be included in a movie about a school dance in the 50s.
Palmer’s vocals sound like what might happen if Bessie Smith fronted a band like The Cramps. It is a soulful voice with a healthy dose of attitude. What’s even more impressive is that she howls those vocals while playing the doghouse bass. Meanwhile the guitar isn’t something you just hear in the background. The guitar chops are on full display – especially on songs like “Sweet Petunia.”
This album is filled with melodies and rhythms that are made to get people moving. With the energy this band brings to recording, you know that it must be truly amazing to see it live.