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With every passing year, it seems like a certain rock & roll aesthetic – rooted equally in blues, country, glam, psychedelia, punk and other staples of the sixties and seventies – fades further and further away, not helped by many of its practitioners going into that good night. (R.I.P. Dave Kusworth.) Given the rampant sexism and bad behavior of a lot of its original masters, maybe that’s not the worst thing in the world. But there’s a very distinctive rock & roll feel being lost as these characters die off or, in the case of recent practitioners like Diamond Dogs or the Blessings, get pushed into the margins.
Fortunately, Paris’ Guttercats stay true to that school with vision, loyalty and talent. Fifth LP Eternal Life finds leader Guts Guttercat and his merry crew eschewing irony, flash and trendiness for sincerity, style and classicism. “Keep the Flame” sets everything up – a time-honored riff, a catchy melody, a touch of smoky melodrama, Guttercat’s chewy baritone and lyrics given thought but not filigree make for a tune that celebrates love and rock & roll with a big, gushy heart on a stylish sleeve. While that’s essentially the album’s – hell, maybe the band’s – quintessential track, it’s not the only worthy spin. The sinister psychedelic pound of “Dark Room,” the defiant folk rock of “If I Had a Loaded Gun,” the bullshit-free acoustica of “Sweet Lies, Betrayal & Adultery” (making the themes clear just in case anyone hasn’t caught on) and the gritty acid blues of “Dagger in My Heart” organically add spice to the rock basics, making the album colorful in the proper ways.
“I believe in eternal life,” Guttercat forthrightly sings on the hopeful title track. Having planted his flag on the rock & roll moon, he leads Guttercats away from the ghetto of revivalists, and into the palace of faith-keepers.
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