The Pirates

Out of Their Skulls

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The death of frontman Johnny Kidd derailed the Pirates back in 1966, but the band's contributions to British rock were not forgotten, and their influence on punk-era pub rock bands like Dr. Feelgood encouraged the remaining players to re-form for this blistering comeback album. Out of Their Skulls pairs a raucous live set with six studio cuts, and if the new tunes don't match up to tough classics like "Please Don't Touch" and "Shakin' All Over," the band's uncompromising strength overrides any weaknesses. Over a decade past their hitmaking prime, the Pirates embrace the aggression and energy of the era and deliver a blazing, no-nonsense set of signature songs and early rock classics with all the lusty abandon, joy, and defiance that defines great rock & roll. Bassist Johnny Spence debuts as lead vocalist, and his big, leathery bellow is occasionally cartoonish but appropriate nonetheless. Mick Green shows off the idiosyncratic lead/rhythm guitar style that made him so influential, pulling buzzing solos out of each chord without losing the riff. Tub man Frank Farley is locked in solid with Spence to produce a rhythm section that is simultaneously metronome tight and bar-fight loose. The studio recordings lack the live set's searing heat, but the sound is cleaner, allowing for a more nuanced appreciation of Green's ringing guitar work; as a result, some of the sillier numbers (like "Do the Dog" and "Gibson Martin Fender") are still useful. American rockers unfamiliar with this very British trio should do a little digging and get their hands on Out of Their Skulls, a truly vibrant album that proves that youth alone is not what fuels the rock & roll engine.

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