The crash of the gong kicking off “Wicked Ways,” the opening track of SMASH Fashion’s third LP, announces unapologetically the forthcoming 12-song celebration of rock and roll. Big Cat Love is a tasty trip through rock’s glorious 1970s zenith when rock was ROCK and the weight of the imploding world did not lessen our love for huge guitars, loud stereos and songs about pretty girls, broken hearts and attitude. The brain child of vocalist/guitarist Roger Deering, SMASH Fashion is well-versed in the better trends of the era, pulling from Big Star, T-Rex, Mick Ronson, Paul Weller and Cheap Trick in a pleasing, contemporary way that is neither derivative nor tiring.
Production is superb and reminiscent of the painstaking love that Elton John may have tapped for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. “Strike My Fancy,” with its pounding piano rhythms, saxophones and obligatory cowbell, and “Blame It On The Brandy” carry a swagger largely lost in rock music today. “Marionette’s” crunchy guitars recall The Jam or Sex Pistols before leading into one of the most impressive rock guitar runs ever. Sonic morsels like the talk box guitar buried in the ending chorus of “Stay Off of My La La” or the didgeridoo-like chanting at the beginning of the title song “Big Cat Love” demand repeat plays of Big Cat Love in anticipation of more grin-eliciting hooks and harmonies.
SMASH Fashion’s personnel include punk legend Tony Kinman of The Dils and Rank and File on bass, guitarist Lloyd Stuart Casson, and drummer Reijo Kauppila. Impressive performances underscore their status as in-demand sidemen for Andy Prieboy (Wall of Voodoo), HR of the Bad Brains and punk rock and soulsters The Bell Rays.
A dozen listenings of Big Cat Love confirm an initial impression: SMASH Fashion captures the rock and roll electricity that inspired this writer to regularly race home from school to devour and wear out his older sister’s copy of Desolation Blvd. (Sweet). Whether or not Big Cat Love has the mass appeal to be the album of the summer, radio listeners and Los Angeles rock stations would clearly benefit from putting 4 or 5 of SMASH Fashion’s latest tunes into regular rotation.
Big Cat Love (Electric Pudding Recordings) is available at Amoeba Music on CD and can be downloaded from iTunes.
SMASH Fashion: (Left to right) Reijo Kauppila, Lloyd Stuart Casson, Tony Kinman and Roger Deering.