By Mike Greenblatt
In the wake of Amy Winehouse, Adele and Alabama Shakes (with vestiges of Bettye Lavette, Sharon Jones and Tina Turner), here comes Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes all the way from Australia. Their “Baby Caught The Bus” Vanguard debut fuses soul, blues, doo-wop and R&B with punk attitude and rock ’n’ roll fervor.
Formed in 2009, the nine-piece band started rehearsals in an old Melbourne coffin factory. With singers Clairy Browne, Camilla, Loretta Miller and Ruby Jones, bassist Crazy Legs Pascoe, saxophonist Darcy McNulty (who gets a hell of a sound out of his baritone sax), pumpin’ piano player Gabriel Strango (like Jerry Lee), guitarist Peter Bee and drummer Ricky Martyn, these Bangin’ Rackettes sure know how to make a racket!
Picture a hot redhead under a dramatic single spotlight, smoldering sexuality, seething with resentment over some creep, voice husky and smoky, bad-girl ache and charm in full persuasion. Then add three Shangri-La types in tight, sequined dresses and bouffant hair, piled up high, echoing Clairy’s every sentiment. A lonely sax wails like something derived right out of “Harlem Nocturne” as a rhythmic clapping accentuates the proceedings with that early rock ’n’ roll shudder of recognition like we’re going backward but you know we’re going forward. Sure, it’s a time capsule of totally evocative proportions but damn if it doesn’t feel good.
As singer-songwriter-bassist for Houston-based King’s X since 1988 (and in various other formations since 1979), Doug Pinnick, 63, has carved out a stunning legacy of progressive hard rock and metal funk. He’s totally “Naked” (RockArmy/MVD) on his current solo effort, … and it’s solo to the max.
Pinnick — who is also known as Dug Pinnick or just dUg — wrote, played and produced it all in his home studio: 11 tracks of deeply personal, therapeutic dark grunge and sludge that puts his instantly-recognizable voice in front of hypnotic drum and bass grooves that are pitched forward by some angry guitar.
Lyrically, he’s exposing himself like never before. Yeah, “Naked,” indeed. Without the melodic invention and Beatlesque harmonic flair of his King’s X bandmate Ty Tabor to play off of, Pinnick spirals off into Alice Cooper territory on the almost scary “I’m Not Gonna Freak Out.” Here, his inner demons come to the fore, and he has to keep telling himself to stay sane. It’s Lennon-primal, true-life angst that’s all the more real if you know some of Pinnick’s story (his recent medical problems coupled with his financial situation).
“Courage” is heavy metal-soul. “I Hope I Don’t Lose My Mind” is self-analysis to the core, bruised and battered but strangely beautiful. On “What You Gonna Do,” he comes clean with painful honesty: “Everyone thinks I got a whole lot of money ‘cause I play in a rock band,” he snarls, “but I’m broke.” Later, he eases out of the darkness by declaring that the bottom line is the fact that he spends his life “doing what I want to do.”
“If You Fuk Up” and “Heart Attack” find him as musically thrilling as he is darkly compelling lyrically. In “The Point,” he admits “One day I’ll be bones, ashes and dust.” Hey, this is one guy who knows tragedy. He likens tragedy itself to “a snake in the grass.”
“Naked” is obviously an intense listen. It’s almost a cliché to mention that great art is borne out of great pain, but in Dug Pinnick’s case, it merits consideration. Cat can sing. He can play every instrument and when edited together can sound like one of the best bands on the planet. A mid-period King’s X musical groove peeks out of the doom on rare moments. “Naked” is a revelatory work of art that can be digested on many levels. It’s that good.