Sometimes it’s good just to blow the cobwebs out of your head and there’s nothing better for that than some loud ramshackle rock music. Turn it up and clean your head indeed. Well Stiv Cantarelli’s latest album is just the medicine required for anyone in need of a good blast at the old neurones packed as it is with rackety blues rock, switchblade guitars and honking sax.
Cantarelli is an Italian who ended up in Portland many years ago striking up a firm relationship with Richmond Fontaine to the extent that they backed him on his solo debut Innerstate. Gathering up The Silent Strangers, essentially his old rhythm section from his Italian band Satellite Inn and adding Roberto Villa on guitar and sax, Cantarelli then released Black Music/White Music last year to some acclaim. Recorded in Italy it seesawed between stark country and amped up rockers. For Banks Of The Lea the band descended on Hackney’s Gizzard studio and looked for inspiration from the famed Canvey sound of Dr. Feelgood to the extent of getting the landlord of Southend’s Railway Hotel, Dave Dulake, to tinkle the ivories on several of the songs. The result is a maelstrom with the ferocity of the Feelgoods allied to the sinister slink of bands like Gallon Drunk and The Gun Club while the hellish urban setting of several of the songs casts the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s anthems under a baleful light. The high point is the magnificent Soul Seller, a gloriously lopsided tumult with the band shifting from a pell mell punk thrash to passages of unhinged slide guitar weirdness that build in intensity as the drummer thrashes his cymbals. It’s an all out orgy of sonic excess and by the end the listener is exhausted (and indeed cleansed).
While Soul Seller might be the summit there are thrills galore on the way up to it. The opening song, The Streets, kicks the door wide open as the band march in with their best garage rock strut before collapsing into a Yardbirds like freakout. No time to take a breath at the end however as they immediately slam into the piano boogie of Frenzy with the sax yacketty yacking like its horn was full of amphetamine. Jason Hit The City barrels along with sax again to the fore as Cantarelli and crew update and eviscerate Bruce Springsteen’s New Jersey fantasies adding a fine Jim Carrol street savvy. Leaving Blues abandons the city for a visceral take on rural blues with the Devil making his usual entrance. It’s not cotton picking back porch romanticism but an electrifying ghost ride somewhat akin to R L Burnside’s scabrous sound. The album ends with the monumental and thrilling juggernaut that is Before I Die with Cantarelli moaning the blues over tumbling drums and razor sharp guitar, a voice crying in the wilderness as all hell breaks loose around him.
Banks Of The Lea is a thrilling ride and the band are on the road for a short tour supporting the release. Tour dates here.