Rockabilly supergroup 13 Cats features vocalist Tim Polecat (Polecats), bassist Smutty Smith and guitarist Danny B. Harvey (the Rockats), and drummer Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats). While the combo found success in the thriving rockabilly scenes of Japan and Europe, 13 Tracks is their U.S. debut. Written principally by Harvey, Polecat, and Phantom, the set has a mind for tradition but isn't afraid to reference the modern in lyricism or song direction. This is notable in a genre that often adheres rigidly to its established code. "Leather Straight Jacket" is ostensibly a Gene Vincent-style rave up; however, its sharply rendered lyrics mark it as something more than homage. "I had the wolfman's razor, Vince Taylor's hair," Polecat sings, only to follow the line with the flickering strobe of "Kill your TV, cathode homicide." Without taking a breath, the band launches into "Poison Candy," a rollicking, organ-driven number recalling the ragged, freewheeling rock of Nuggets-era rockers like the Litter. Harvey's scraggly, sputtering guitar cuts through "Jungle Man - Robot Girl," which again updates the genre with references to the Internet and celebrity blue movies. "Sex Hex," "Monkey See - Monkey Do," and the aptly named "Dark Side" are awash in top-notch rockabilly style; however, they're also possessed of a sleazy, almost nihilistic quality that lights the album's nadir in the slutty glow of an urban red-light district. "Monkey See" in particular, with its unsettling titular repetition and angry condemnations of homogeny, is stunningly effective. 13 Tracks proves that the rockabilly revival that Phantom had a hand in with his old band is still beating in the heart of the city, and shows that you don't have to pretend it's 1956 to make the music matter.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus