Released Jan. 22nd on Swami Records
I’m a Swami devotee. In the past year I’ve seen The Night Marchers live 6 times (as well as Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt twice each…yes, I’m bragging). So it was with great anticipation that I awaited the release of their second studio album, Allez! Allez!, back in January. Once again, John “Swami”/”Speedo” Reis doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I like this album more than their debut, 2008’s See You in Magic, though the two are very sonically similar. That’s likely because Allez! Allez! was actually recorded 4 years ago, back in January ’09. I don’t know the reason for the delay…The Night Marchers were Reis’ only active group for a few years there, so it seems they could’ve released this album sooner. It’s possible they wanted to wait until they could tour on it, and though Reis’ plate is even fuller now (the last 2 years have seen reunion tours of the aforementioned Hot Snakes and Rocket from the Crypt) they’re certainly hitting the road with enthusiasm (again, 6 shows in a year, and those were just the southern California stops). Perhaps they’re making up for lost time; when I saw them last Halloween, Reis mentioned it was their first show in 4 or 5 years.
With the long gap between recording and release, it’s not surprising that a few of these tunes are familiar to fans. “Thar She Blows” and “All Hits” were released together as a single in 2011, and album closer “Fisting the Fan Base” was an early number in the band’s setlist back in ’07/’08. They’re all kickass rock-&-rollers, and join other fiery numbers like “Tropical Depression”, “Loud, Dumb & Mean”, and “(Wasting Away In) Javalinaville” as huge hits in some alternate dimension where everyone has good musical taste. There are a few spots where the band reigns it in a bit, like the aching-heart “Pain” and slow burner “Roll On”, that help balance the mood before the more explosive numbers kick back in. There are also some musical flourishes in the form of Rocket-like horns in “Big in Germany” and “Roll On” and boot-stomping harmonica in “I Wear the Horns!!” that add interesting touches to the band’s palette.
Having established that the material is between 3 and 6 years old, you might be concerned that the live performance may be lacking. Let me put that worry to rest right now: Again, I’ve seen this band 6 times in the last 12 months, and each time has been amazing. I’ve never seen the Swami put on a bad show (I’ve seen him get the plug pulled halfway through the closing number, but never a lackluster performance). Whether it’s leading a conga line mid-song during a Halloween toga party at his Bar Pink, covering himself with stickers in LA, or dripping sweat at Alex’s or the Casbah, the man always gives 100% onstage. Gar Wood seems to have a permagrin whenever he’s playing, an expression of pure enjoyment. The rhythm section is reliably tight, bassist Tommy Kitsos assuming a zombie-like stance with a lolling of the head and rolling back of the eyes while Jason “Mystery Boy” Kourkounis adds the thud as he did on the first two Hot Snakes records. It’s a chemistry that comes of years-long friendship and collaboration, and it makes for an atmosphere where both the band and audience are undeniably having fun.
Fans of the Swami know that his name on an album is a mark of guaranteed quality, and Allez! Allez! is the latest in a long line of top-notch records from this most reliable of rock & roll gurus.