The Del-Lords

Elvis Club

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Though the Del-Lords officially re-formed in 2009, Elvis Club marks their first recording in 23 years. Chief songwriter/guitarist Scott Kempner has released a trio of solo albums, and performed with Dion DiMucci and a slew of other artists, while lead guitarist Eric Roscoe Ambel has established himself as a formidable producer, engineer, and session player. This iteration of the band features these two and original drummer Frank Funaro, along with new bassist Michael DuClos. Kempner, who sings lead on most of these cuts, wrote nine of them and co-wrote "Every Day" with Dion and "Make a Mistake" with Ambel, who produced the set. The sound here picks up right where the band left off. This is late-'80s, early-'90s New York roots rock -- all the sessions were cut at one of two studios in Brooklyn. It's all guitars, popping snares, 2/4 or 4/4 time, basic basslines, and a stray piano or organ thrown in for good measure. While none of these tunes are particularly "serious," some of them are cleverly absurd, such as opener "When the Drugs Kick In," which has a tasty, ringing, twin guitar riff, and the dreadfully titled, skittering boogie of "Chicks, Man!" The version of "Every Day" here rocks harder than DiMucci's (from 2000's Deja Nu), but isn't as convincing as a love song. The quasi-rockabilly in "Damaged" sounds tired and clumsy, while the distorted blues in "You Can Make a Mistake One Time" is all affect -- as if they were trying to channel the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion but have no idea how. "Silverlake" is a true bright spot. Kempner's vocal is emotionally invested, and jangly Rickenbacker guitars play the hell out of a timeless hook. Neil Young's "Southern Pacific," the lone cover, closes the record on a strange note. The guitars and drums charge out of the gate on stun with more edge and urgency than the original version. But when Ambel's vocal tries to ape the songwriter's, the track undoes itself and feels like a dead cross between parody and tribute. The Del-Lords once embodied the spirit of the ragged, rootsy, New York rock & roll scene at the end of a magical era; but that culture has long since vanished into history, making most of these songs, no matter how well constructed or intentioned, feel like exercises in nostalgia rather than anything vital. Ultimately, Elvis Club was recorded for the die-hard faithful, who will likely find great deal of comfort here.

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