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The Beltones
Cheap Trinkets
TKO Records

Bill McFadden has a quarry in his throat. His million-dollar voice is rough and rich like maybe Columbo, or McGruff the crime dog, or walnut fudge. If the guy from Gomez had a punk band, it would be this. They stack his ballsy, soulful vocals against the melodic punk the band puts out. With this unique flavor, they should have a broad appeal. I kept thinking of The Wedding Present and found that I had said that on Punch Drunk 2. Some of the guitar scrubbing is standard MTV punk. But without the Fisher-Price vocals those bands are so fond of, itís not an issue. Whether heís screaming, growling or mumbling, the guy isnít afraid to take the melody to unexpected paths, bouncing off the notes and sometimes engaging them in a drag race. The sonic emphasis is on dizzying speed more than brutal heaviness.

As for the writing, the boys temper the usual palooka toughness with (dare I say?) honest vulnerability. Even the energetic fight song "Ainít No Life" ends with a copís boot in the neck and a night at the Iron Bar Hotel. This adds credibility when the lost love songs come through, which they do in gangs. In "Weak" McFadden confesses, "I ainít got no soul, just broken dreams and bloodstained sheets/And ainít a god in heaven thatíll ever mean shit to me/And without her kiss I fear Iíll never get a good nightís sleep." It comes across like an out of control 50ís prom song. Her kisses may not be sweeter than wine, but they rate "Better Than A Kick In The Head." That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it tells of the woman being the voice of reason. They do get us out of scrapes sometimes, donít they? Like the one this song is having with the guardrail. The continuing heartbreak is explored in "Set ĎEm Up Stevie," the boppy "Lullabye," and the ring bearer, "Cheap Trinkets." Later in the cleverly titled "Shitty In Pink" he buys the girl a shot of bitterness with a chaser of beat-cheeks. So we know heís not all mush, and the band has some Misfits leanings. "Hellfire" puts out the word that marriage is off the table. But high-octane punkabilly is on with great Eddie Cochran vocal hiccups. Thereís still hope for love withí "Mix It Up." Yeah, Iíd take the wife dancing, but she wonít get in the pit. Then the ultimate love lost on the deceptively morose "Mr. Wrecking Ball." You have to listen close to catch the "Last Kiss" vibe buried underneath the fuzz and velocity. "I close my eyes and itís her I see with the face of an angel and a mouth like a sailor / The good lord stole her away from me / I swear Iíll settle the score with that rotten motherfucker."

Iíd prefer they leave the staged spontaneous bong-sucking sketch to the Sublime guys. Or the Long-dead Dub All-stars or whatever theyíre called now. But the rockabilly drive of "The Thief" makes up for it. Speaking of dub, the hopped up cover of Bob Marleyís "Concrete Jungle" features some of the best guitar-work here. "Garbage Picker" tries to maintain his dignity, and even here the romance shows through. "Iím past due on my borrowed time/I really wish I could make good, but I blew it all on roses and wine." Thanks for raising our birdsí expectations, McFabio.

On a scale of romantical type paraphernalia: one being a quart of 10W40 and an air wrench, and ten being a tubful of lasagna and a carafe of cheap bourbon; Cheap Trinkets deserves an eight, a loaf of olive, a jug of Tampico and thou.

ó Ewan Wadharmi

Track Listing:

  1. Ain't No Life
  2. Set 'Em Up, Stevie
  3. Weak
  4. Cheap Trinkets
  5. (Juvenile Dub) Concrete Jungle
  6. Hellfire
  7. Shitty In Pink
  8. Better Than A Kick In The Head
  9. Lullabye
  10. Mix It Up
  11. Mr. Wrecking Ball
  12. The Thief
  13. Garbage Picker

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