In their mid-’80s heyday (such as it was), New York’s Raunch Hands were retro-rock representatives of that presumed golden age of sleaze, the mid-’50s to mid-’60s. Thus El Rauncho Grande offers neo-rockabilly, neo-R&B and even neo-Mex, all filtered through the band’s beer-heightened (lowered?) sensibilities. Learn to Whap-a-Dang is less quaint than the EP, and its denser band sound helps the Raunch Hands barrel through their own R&B: Raucous & Bawdy. Mike Chandler isn’t much of a singer, but attitude counts for a lot here, and guitarist Mike Tchang’s occasional sax is a definite plus. Too bad their originals (about half of each record) can’t match the ’50s obscurities for sheer mindlessness — not counting Whap-a-Dang‘s “Kangaroo Juice,” an “original” stolen from Eddie Cochran.
On following recordings the band increased its songwriting contributions, with mixed results. The last thing the Raunch Hands’ chosen genre needs is ambition, and Payday sometimes chokes on it; thus “Detox Moon,” an over-five-minute (!!) wino response to the Stones’ “Moonlight Mile.” The schoolyard couplets of “Bottle — Now!” (in praise of cheap booze) and immature humor of “Hare-Raisin'” (in praise of the Raunch Hands’ hapless career) prove that less is definitely more.
Which may be why Have a Swig is under a half-hour long. Highlights here include a lascivious stomp, “Everybody Loves Yo’ Mama,” and the less-than-existential “Naked, Naked, Naked.” More power to these guys, whose gutter-view perspective has undeniable aroma and charm.