US Roughnecks - 20 Dollars and Two Black Eyes
By golly, Mike Hennessey sounds like one very cross man. Hennessey, for it is he who provides the US Roughnecks with their vocals, sounds exactly how you'd expect Animal from the muppets to sound if he was sacked (for drinking to excess) from successful troupe of puppet actors and was forced to earn his living from fronting Californian based punk bands. The reality is not so pleasant, Hennessey has had a rough time of it growing up, and the songs here based on street fighting and trouble from the cops are based very much on personal experience.
For it's not until the third track on here that that album really begins to take shape. The opening tracks are standard enough punk/rock noise slabs, but Saturday is an absolutely great track. They suddenly drop the jabbing guitars and instead adopt a sort of Ramones-esque rock 'n' roll feel. When this is combined with Animal barking about "Good times come/Good Times Go/Good times of my very own." the album suddenly explodes into life. There's something almost touching and innocent about this hymn to the glories of Saturday night fighting and drinking. From there its back to the punk shouting and Serve and Protect, a blast about the police who "Follow you/And fuck with you etcetc". It's not subtle, but thoroughly entertaining and so it contains in a similar vein throughout.
Production is very good indeed and you suspect they might sound like a very different, perhaps better, beast in a live environment. It's very polished, or as polished as the genre will allow, but the guitars have an epic feel to them that's often missing from a variety of music that often tries to reduce the guitars to thin buzzsaws. But the trouble with the Roughnecks is that their strength is also their weakness. They are fast, aggressive, and pack a lot of punch, but about two-thirds of the way through the album you suddenly start wishing for a bit of variety. The polished production begins to feel a little limiting and you long for something surprising to happen. It doesn't, which is a pity.
That's not to say that there are not some fun moments on here. Short Haired Rock 'n' Roll ditches the tight, fast power chords and allows the song to breath a little and it's refreshing. Elsewhere, Roughneck Noise has a great fast little rock 'n' roll 'Chuck Berry on speed' sort of intro, which will be instantly familiar to anyone familiar with the output of The Toy Dolls, but these little flashes are, sadly, not enough to sustain the album. If you're fed up with current definition of American Punk and long for a return of bands such as Dirty Rotten Imbeciles or MOD, then you might find this album perfect. Everybody else might grow weary quite quickly.