Steve Conte & The Crazy Truth
Steve Conte and the Crazy Truth is all about straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll, the kind you really don’t want to over intellectualise for fear of killing it stone dead. He’s the latest in a long line of louche, axe slingers whose lineage can be traced right back to when the epithet ‘cool’ was snatched from the clutches of the blue note jazzmen, never to return. The culprit was, of course, the Fagin-like Keith “Keef” Richards whose sleight of hand created a whole new vision of rock ‘n’ roll. Sure Elvis oozed sex and Jerry Lee danger but it was Keef that gave us the classic image of the alleycat guitar hero. Hair like a rat’s nest, drainpipes, foppish shirt, low slung guitar and an ubiquitous cigarette hanging precariously from a sneering bottom lip; that was Keith, that was Johnny (Thunders and Marr) and now the baton passes to Steve Conte. He’s certainly got the style and attitude, you don’t get to be guitarist for the legendary New York Dolls by pitching up in a Damon Albarn tracksuit, but has he got the chops to carry off a solo album? You better believe it, this album is like a full blooded skirmish in the war of independence between the Faces and Aerosmith. This, my friends, is the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
Steve Conte and The Crazy Truth is like a pimp’s cut of the Taxi Driver movie: the same shit is going down all over the place but this time it is the animals that come out at night, the whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies who are telling the story while Travis glides by in his cab, a spirit of redemption praying for a rainstorm. ‘Texas T’ epitomises this degenerate spirit with some dirrrrrrrrrrrrrty, messed up guitar sounds and a sleazy, swaggering hipshake of a soundtrack that leaves you feeling like you need a hot bath. In bleach. It is a roots album so there are plenty of echoes of the past drifting in and out; ‘Gypsy Cab’ may tread a similar radio friendly path to early Lenny Kravitz but listen close and you’ll also catch some creepy Cramps-like guitar lines sneaking up on you when you least expect it. In some respects Conte suffers from being a little out of step with current taste as a song as hot and hook laden as ‘The Truth Ain’t Pretty’ would have been a sure-fire radio hit back in the early 80’s whereas now you are forced to work that little bit harder to seek out the good stuff. It’s all here though.
The big, dumb fun of ‘Get Off’ is about as close as this album swings towards classic New York Dolls territory and in it’s balls-out, ‘last gang in town’ chorus you can hear the ghosts of Johnny Thunders, Joey Ramone and the posse raising hell on the River Styx. ‘Busload of Hope’ brings welcome respite with a change of pace but it isn’t long before the heat is turned back and the horns of the ludicrously titled ‘Strumpet-hearted Monkey Girl’ rock the joint like Hanoi Rocks at their awkward best. This is Steve Conte in his element, playing it loose and kicking up a storm while jamming with his mates. If you want to catch him in action then you are in luck as he’s over here with the Dolls in December, I’ll see you down the front.
(Images (C) John Rahim and Paul Bachmann respectively)