skin suitSkin Suit - The Bobby Lees (Alive Naturalsound)

If you were on the cusp of releasing your first "real" record, had US and European tours booked and ran head-first into the current viral shit show, you'd feel like you'd been whacked around the head with the Unlucky Baseball Bat, wouldn't you? Such is the lot of a young band in The Age of The Phlegm Plague.

Upstate New Yorkers The Bobby Lees sound mightily pissed-off on "Skin Suit", but the album was recorded long before Covid-19 was kicking anybody's arse.

The Bobby Lees play snotty, raucous blues thrash with all the rough edges left intact. Little wonder that Jon Spencer produced "Skin Suit"  - the band's explosive blues sound is right up his alley.

The back-story goes that formidable frontwoman-guitarist Sam Quartin blew into Woodstock from New York City, looking for a band. The local version of the School of Rock was happy to oblige, and spat out a mix of students and graduates in Macky Bowman on drums, Nick Casa on lead guitar and Kendall Wind on bass and occasional keys. No word about Jack Black having a say in the matter which is undoubtedly a good thing.

This is a band bursting with character in short, sharp songs. Ms Quartin's vocal shifts from a conspiratorial murmur to a beseeching shriek in the space of a few bars. Liberal doses of fuzz buzz in and around the mix and a pulsing, nimble bottom-end provides the propulsion.

"Skin Suit" (now, there's a Dahmer-esque title) is the first "real" album because the 2018 debut "Beauty Pageant" was presented to the band by the singer in fully realised form. "Skin Suit" is a collaborative effort and reeks of the sort of loose-tightness that can only come from playing extensively together. The video single "Guttermilk" will give you an idea what to expect.

These aren't songs as much as novellas that each provide a snapshot of a psychodrama: There's "Wendy" (an object of obsession who has a walking frame), "Russell" (a 25-year-old who's stone dead) and "Mary Jo" (a cowgirl type with a bloody face.) "Last Song" is a keyboard-washed mental breakdown, being taken apart and documented.

Casa gets to sing lead on "Ranch Baby", which is either a risqué exercise in double entendre or an ode to a popular American salad dressing. Of course, your own take may vary.

How many bands have you heard lately that can get away with desecrating "I'm a Man" and sound credible? It's all in Quartin's leering vocal and Casa's muscular guitar. You can even forgive the workboots-wearing cover of Richard Hell's "Blank Generation".  After a coupla spins, it's evident that (a.) The Bobby Lees have made it their own and (b.) it somehow sounds more optimistic than the original. 

Spencer's production is exactly as you'd hope - it plays up the dynamics to the max and doesn't dull any of the edge. "Skin Suit" is out on 8 May. Give the kids a break and buy it.