CD Review of Play Rock and Roll by The Lions Rampant
Recommended if you like
Thee Shams, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Pavement, Black Keys
Label
Self released EP
The Lions Rampant:
Play Rock and Roll

Reviewed by Mojo Flucke, PhD

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T
hese dudes hail from Kentucky. I've seen local rock in Huntington, WV (home of Marshall) and Ashland, KY across  the Big Sandy River, and the first thing that comes to mind isn't a punchy, Jon Spencer-in-your-face Sub Pop-esque sound. Like, it's hard to do a good cover of "Don't Rock the Jukebox" when the fuzz is turned up to 10. Playing what the Lions Rampant play probably agitated more than a few audience dudes in faded denim and Robbie Gordon belt buckles.

The Lions Rampant gash away at their power chords like Thee Shams or the Black Keys, except they don't take themselves so seriously, and that's a good thing – because it's already been done. Instead, they add a little redneck insouciance reminiscent of those early-'90s Sub Pop bands that captivated a nation ready to set Brett Michaels' hair alight just to get him to quit singing. Imagine Mark Farner's Grand Funk lead guitar, the high-shrill melodic chords, but pumped out of an amp through whose speaker Pete Townshend just rammed his guitar neck. Then a lot of half-shouted, unison vocals with a lot "whoos" thrown in for good measure. The singing? It's actually in tune sometimes.

All the tunes play pretty well, the louder the better. "Cryin' All the Time," however,  pretty much encapsulates the whole act: A simple blues cut, you could definitely hear someone like a J.B. Lenoir or Junior Wells cutting an original version circa 1955 as an urban Chicago "race record" before white people wised up to how awesome blues was. Add to that the filter of a generation of white guitar players learning blues licks off of the white stars who "discovered" blues, like Stevie Ray and Eric Clapton and Keith Richards. And on top of that, a layer of retro-analog distortion, because new digital equipment can make pure blues sound clean and 99% soul-free, so dudes dial in tube-style overdrive and sing their lungs out. Yeah, that's it. Sounds 10 times better than the synthetic crap we hear on the radio. The Grand Funk comparison is apt – at least early Grand Funk Railroad stuff, as they and the Lions Rampant were both power trios leaning back and playing thunderously, never letting off the gas.

It's beautiful noise, part youthful cool rock and part homage to the garage-rock era of 40 years ago, when anyone could – and did – plug in and play. The era's made a huge comeback with cheap tech and straight-to-PC recording. But hey, don't take our word for it, go check 'em out yourself: The band's giving away this six-song EP, as well as its five-song debut Half Woman, Half Alcohol, free for now at thelionsrampant.com. They're betting that once you hear these cuts, you'll pay for more down the road. If they keep cutting material this good, I'd make that bet.

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