Nov. 30, 2016 01:41 PM

It seems as if every project Christopher Slim undertakes is a love letter to a different genre and to a different decade that inspires him. His band The Transmission featured vintage horror and sci-fi inspired electro garage sounds; The Howdies were a sincere send-up of classic rockabilly. His latest, Christopher Slim & the B-Side Bosses, embarks on an old school rock/rhythm and blues journey with a vicious edge.

On most tracks, there is a bit of a feel that could be mistaken for swamp pop as Eric Bernhardt’s saxophone carries a lead role. Sometimes it seems a bit out of place, at others it is the perfect lead Yet, this is not at all swamp pop. The B-Side Bosses brand of rock goes way back to the late 1940s and 50s style where saxophones were common place in the genre. Yet, it pushes forward and modernizes the sound a bit — always with an outspoken (and sometimes sinister) subject matter. Heartbreak may have caused rock ‘n’ roll architects to shrink and retreat, but it just fuels Slim to come back with bravado.

On “Buzzard,” Slim’s guitar and Bernhardt’s sax run wild, pairing perfectly with the tune’s anger and violent warnings. The dreamy and punchy “Sleeping with Ghosts” is drum-driven with the vibe of a B-side from a “Twin Peaks” soundtrack. “Two in the Blood” possesses a raw Stray Cats swagger and beat while Slim sings about a love that leaves you black and blue, some of the most dangerous territory on the record. “(You Better) Get Right on to Steppin’” is a great song with a spine and has a catchy play between the beat and saxophone that conjures up Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”

Slim’s vocals — leaning towards a more raw sound here than in the past — underline the lyrical nature of his songs. These aren’t sock hop anthems but odes from the dark-eyed and dangerous charmer in the leather jacket waiting in the parking lot.

Through an early rock, pre-guitar solo sound — complete with a streamlined studio simplicity that removes the pretty and clean cut overtones of 1950s chart toppers — Slim juxtaposes an almost playful and innocent sound with gritty lines like “Not surprised you like pain/You had a whip and I had a chain” and “Lips like cyanide/ My, my, my/One kiss before I’m dead.”

With their lyrics that go a lot further than Haley’s (suggestive to some at the time and blamed for riots in the United Kingdom), no one will ever confuse The B-Side Bosses with its ready-for-radio-play source material. Nonetheless, it maintains its status as both a love letter to the framework of rock ‘n’ roll and to dark-themed love. Slim’s latest project is a tough and ballsy business, a malt shop massacre kind of love.

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