I have been a fan of rockabilly for a very, very long time. While I don’t roll around every day dressed like a character from The Wild One, I’ve got my rockabilly tattoos, I settle for no less than 4” cuffs, and I still pomp my hair on occasion. I’ve seen bands come and go and, to be perfectly honest, it is has been a good amount of time since I’ve actually been excited about a new artist in this genre. It’s hard to bring something unique to the table in a genre that has been around for as long as rockabilly has been without having to rely on camp or gimmicks to get it done. JD McPherson, a greaser from Oklahoma, relies on neither of those, his music is true and honest and you can feel that he just gets it. He takes what can be a tired and played-out genre and reinvigorates it with the low growl in his voice, the deft twists in articulation that shows he is emotionally invested in the lyrics and music, and the group of remarkable musicians he has put together and the way the instrumentation is seamlessly crafted in a very subtle, but masterful manner. His punk rock roots show through in that the vast majority of songs on this album clock in at under 3 minutes, but when you’re listening to them, they feel much longer than that and they just seem to reach out, grab you by your unmentionables, and pull you in, making you want to do whatever it is you love to do when listening to good music.
To call this a rockabilly album is actually doing it a disservice, as there are such obvious influences from boogie woogie, rhythm and blues, and western swing as well as other venerable genres to be found among the tracks. This album transcends any kind of genre pigeonholing and anyone who enjoys good music done by talented musicians can dig this album, from beginning to end. Yes, the music has a retro, 50s feel to it, but it is much more than just a rockabilly album and if you allow yourself to disregard it just because of that, then you’re going to miss out on a great group of songs performed by some kick-ass musicians who are apologetically nostalgic for a day when music was pure, simple, and honest.
North Side Gal opens the album and it opens it well as a masterfully crafted ditty that revs you up and gets you going. The meat of the album comes in the middle and starts with the title track Signs & Signifiers, which is a hypnotic, churning slow burn with the clacking of the upright bass sounding like the devil’s metronome — it makes me want to glower at strangers and fume about all that is fucked up in this world. After that, it’s just one great song after another, with the album ending with two of my favorites – Your Love (All That I’m Missing) and Scandalous. Don’t listen to this album alone, listen to it with some friends and some alcohol and some pretty people around that you might want to dance with; otherwise you’ll end up just dancing with yourself.