Solo - Cheetah Chrome (Plowboy)
You have to ask the question - at least rhetorically - about why ex-Deadboys guitarist Cheetah Chrome hasn’t been more prolific under his own name. If you want answers, go and read his gripping and nakedly revelatory autobiography, “A Dead Boy’s Tale”, but while you’re waiting for it to ship, grab this stunning mini-album.
Looking at the back catalogue, there’s scattered recordings with various bands, most notably The Ghetto Dogs and the “Live In Detroit” record of a decade ago, and of course outings with the reformed Rocket From The Tombs. The more recent Batusis EP four Chrome playing with The Blackhearts and NY Doll Syl Sylvain. That’s all well and good but “Solo” ups the ante by a factor of several numbers. Weathered and gnarly, much like the man himself, this collection of seven tunes bristles with world-weary wisdom and bare-knuckled immediacy.
There’s a couple of autobiographical songs, the defiant “Nuthin’” and the bitter-sweet salute to the old New York City, “East Side Story”, at the core of this record. The latter is one of those “heartland” songs - if your home is a junkie squat in Alphabet City - while “Nuthin’” layers blunt-edge guitar on an acoustic edge with Cheetah’s gruff, honest (and partly spoken word) vocal laying it on the line. It's matter-of-fact without a hint of self-pity but above all shows the man can write a song.
“Rollin’ Voodoo” marries a wrought iron bass-line to an irresistible jungle drum feel with Cheetah and Sylvain’s guitars sparring under a loudspeaker vocal. It’s five-minutes of heady stuff that'll peel paint and leads into a pop-tinged rocker, “Stare Into The Night”, that could get a gig on an enlightened radio station’s playlist (if that isn’t an oxymoron.)
There’s plenty of substance in the balance of the songs. They boast the occasional pop hook, chunky guitar-work and great production. It's not a bunch of Dead Boys re-make songs and there are surprises. For example, the surf-tinged opening instrumental “Shaky” is a slow build that sounds deceptively like an outtake, but blossoms when Chrome peels out a muscular solo in the outro.
Recorded in Cheetah’s adopted home of Nashville over a handful of sessions dating as far back as 1996 (with production parts credited to original Dead Boys mentor Genya Raven and manager/CBGB owner the late Hilly Krystal), this is truly a keeper with its brusque guitars and gruff character. Collaborators include members of the Blackhearts, The Cult and Sylvain. The sole disappointment with “Solo” is that it isn’t another five or six songs longer.