Reviews – The Rockats

was trying to think of more cool weekly features to put up, and knew I
wanted to have something helping people discover obscure music they
should have heard of, but probably haven’t. And my choice for that was
obvious — I know of no one with more breadth and depth knowledge of
music, across all genres, than Nick Feratu of The Limit Club. So here is the first of a weekly column on "must-haves" for your music collection.

The RockatsMake That Move 


Rating = (4.5 out of 5 stars)

The mid-eighties were a scattered period for the musical
underground. The young, loud and snotty punk bands of the late
seventies had almost all completely lost their inertia and were either
clinging to life (The Clash), experimenting with other sounds (David
Johansen/Buster Poindexter) or had broken up and moved on completely
(Sex Pistols, etc). The next wave of music to ooze out of the schlock
and droll underground was not a single, coherent “wave” at all. It was
a menagerie of styles, all still rooted in the free-thinking
expressionism of punk rock but further tainted with traces of
synthesizers, organs, saxophones and various other “non-punk”
instruments. People had grown bored and impatient with the standard
“guitar-bass-drum” format of straight-forward punk rock and began
searching for alternative sounds. Very few of the bands to emerge from
this period in rock and roll were built to last. Most of them were far
too individualistic and experimental flirting with darker, more
dance-oriented sounds that would come to be known as Neo-Rockabilly,
New Wave and Death-Rock. All of these genres carried some flawless
albums and some true stink-bombs.

I’m not a Rockats expert. I know that the original Rockats preceded
most of the original Rockabilly-Revival bands like Stray Cats,
Polecats, Robert Gordon, etc, but that they lacked some of the polish
and commercial drive that those bands had.
I know that they
started out with Levi Dexter doing lead vocals and they lost him
somewhere along the way, causing guitarist Dibbs Preston to take over
lead vocals and freeing up the band creatively, allowing them to try
out new sounds.

A friend of mine recommended the song "Make That Move" by The
Rockats a few months ago, so I looked it up on Youtube and gave it a
listen. The song was good! It wasn’t your standard Rockabilly fare, but
you could definitely still hear some hip twang and bopping reverb
soaked guitar in the mix amongst the throbbing bass. I liked what I
heard, so I picked up the Rockats album that the song was on which was
also titled "Make That Move". From where I’m standing it sounds like a
wonderful blending of all things new wave and neo-billy. It blurs the
line between the two genres almost completely.

This short but solid album starts out with a catchy tune titled
“Burning”, which seeped into my subconscious and caused me to sing
along on the choruses without even realizing it. The next track, “One
More Heartache” is a slow dirge that pulsates along with organs and
background chants throughout. The next song, "That’s The Way" which is
one of my favorites, has a super synth driven sound which permeates and
carries the song along with sexually suggestive lyrics and vocals.
Track four, a cover of “Go Cat Wild” is passable (it’s not as good as
the Buzz and the Flyers version, in my opinion) but it’s still worth a
listen or two. The "Whoa-oh-oh" choruses on "Never So Clever" (and
scattered throughout the rest of the album) are used creatively and
never once become overwhelming or predictable. Their cover of “Be Bop A
Lula” sounds good and was in good taste, but I find myself skipping
over it most of the time. And filling out the album, we have a catchy,
new wave sounding track called “Woman’s Wise” which is thoroughly
enjoyable and would fit in perfectly at 80s Dance Night.

While listening to this album, I can hear traces of the sound that
the Stray Cats (Cross of Love, Storm the Embassy), Polecats (Polecats
Are Go) and the Quakes (New Generation) all flirted with at one time. I
realize that the New-Wave-a-billy thing probably isn’t for everyone.
But damnit… if it’s wrong to love some good, catchy, pop-infused
rockabilly… then I don’t want to be right!

1. Burning
2. One More Heartache
3. That’s The Way
4. Go Cat Wild
5. Never So Clever
6. Make That Move
7. Be Bop A Lula
8. Woman’s Wise

Similar sounds:
The Quakes
– New Generation
The Polecats – Polecats are Go!
Buzz and the Flyers – Buzz and the Flyers
Stray Cats – Choo Choo Hot Fish

The Rockats "Make that Move" video: