One of the most underappreciated combos in the early-to-mid-’90s indie roots-rock movement (Gibson Bros, ’68 Comeback, Reverend Horton Heat, Southern Culture on the Skids), Bodeco — take the Bo from Diddley and the ‘deco from zydeco — shake, rattle and roll out celebratory party rawk. Sing the praises of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s arch blues deconstructions all day; Bodeco wallops with an allegiant muscle that unabashedly lacks irony.
Guitarist Ricky “Shaggy” Feather leads the band through the kind of rumbles that might have inspired his nickname; Bone, Hair and Hide‘s full of ’em, fueled by Link Wray/Duane Eddy-inspired guitar riffs (shared with Matthew “Wink” O’Bannon) as Feather’s gruff throat blasts out Mardi Gras-tinged tales of fast living (“Crazy Wild,” “Dead Broke and Dirty”), hot rods (“Suicide Ride,” “Holy Rollers Rockin’ in a Killin’ Machine”) and psychobilly mischief (“Whole Lotta Trouble,” “Spank Your Fanny,” “Hoe Dad”). Sharp, jumpin’ instrumentals like “Happy Guitar Boogie” and “Casillero del Diablo” are a specialty, and Bodeco delivers them with aw-shucks economy.
The delayed followup reinforces Bodeco’s simple genius by turning up the slop right from the get-go. Percussionist Gary Stillwell makes an immediate impression on “Crazy Sexy Baby,” his bells and shakers accenting the steady, in-the-pocket rhythms of drummer/co-founder Brian Burkett and bassist Jimmy Brown. The guitars are hotter here and, beyond the expected fire (“Wicked Mean & Evil” is a superior sequel to “Dead Broke and Dirty”), the band’s instrumental work is varied and improved. Guest saxophone brings fat, smoky resonance to “High Window,” “Chicken Shifter” and a sassy cover of “La Cucaracha.” “Bright Lights at the End of the Road” is raw and raunchy; “Lucky 13” is a percolating ode to biker slang for pot. The album includes studio versions of “Rock and Roll Till the Cows Come Home” and “Hill and Gully Rider,” both of which appear as live raves on Bone, Hair and Hide.
In the liner notes to Wink, O’Bannon (who spent much of ’93 and ’94 as a member of Eleventh Dream Day) writes “This big turd was recorded at various times between 1984 and 1993 — a sordid, unpleasant decade.” In fact, it’s a pretty charming — if mangy — little turd. Singing simple rock, country and blues songs in a lazy, unsteady voice over minimal accompaniment — guitar, bass, drums, an occasional spot of sax, with very little involvement of his Bodeco brothers — O’Bannon registers chronic dissipation. He’s there but he’s not happy, regardless of what the wry lyrics say. (A fragmentary one-word ode entitled “Penis,” which elicits howls of protest from a woman in the studio, is about as merry as this gets.) Where O’Bannon really comes alive is in the instrumentals, which touch on surf twang, Wray-man rumbles, Memphis boogie, Chuck Berry rock’n’roll and crisp country picking without ever leaving Louisville, Kentucky.