A wise old sage once told this reviewer that the best way to critique anyone is to use the A-B-C method: “Affirmation Before Criticism”. Alrighty. In the case of Boston rockabilly revivalists Raging Teens, they get an A+ for their authentic packaging art. In one photo bassist Matt Murphy kneels beside an ancient hi-fi system identical to one my parents had in my pre-language days. Pasted to the cabinet door is a promo shot of Tennessee Ernie Ford for “Sixteen Tons”. Classic. Drummer Keith Schubert stands in a wet bar surrounded by empty cans of Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The disc label includes a reminder that this album consists of “vocal with rhythm accompaniment”. Extra classic.
The centerpiece of the The Raging Teens is guitarist Miss Amy Griffin. She has meticulously studied the chops of various past masters, and her playing here single-handedly propels the record forward. Her work is attention-grabbing on numbers such as “Waitin’ Right Here”, “Starry tn the City”, and her fiery instrumental “Walkaround”. The sound Miss Amy summons from her Gibson is augmented by Deke Dickerson’s clever production. As on his convincing solo projects, Dickerson uses vintage sound boards and microphones to recreate the harsh, reverberating atmosphere of the late ’50s.
Unfortunately for the Teens, Dickerson’s presence behind the scenes also underscores how far short of the master they actually are. Whereas Dickerson’s last outing Rhythm Rhyme & Truth (Hightone) was an exhaustive survey of every nook and cranny of rockabilly, Rock ‘n’ Roll Party! lacks the abrasive power and conviction of the former. Did Dickerson hold back on his young proteges, or did the Teens fail to give their music the same attention to detail as the album artwork?
In short, apart from Griffin’s persuasive playing, the rest of the album comes off flat and hollow. Vocalist Kevin Patey is a couple of years away from rockabilly puberty. He sounds less like a rough-and-tumble greaser and more the kid who hid himself with a towel in the locker room. Hence, why the name Raging Teens? After a couple of perusals Silly Teens, Fun Lovin’ Teens, or Goofin’ Around With Rockabilly Teens seem like more applicable names. At least I’m not worried that any of this youngsters will pull a gun on me or break into my house.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Party! is good backgound music to thump your cigarette against an ashtray and sip a Pabst to while conversing with a friend. It’s unlikely either of you will jump up to jitterbug.