I largely stopped doing music reviews on this site for two reasons — one, I find that the process of reviewing an album takes a lot of the joy out of just listening to it, and reviewing music doesn’t quite fit in with the shifting focus of this site. I make an exception for that today because I got a wonderful surprise and I want to share it with you.
You may remember the heady days of the late ’90s Swing Revival, when mainstream music became fun once again (even if just for a few years). You may also remember one of the acts from that revival that rose to prominence during the time — Eugene, Oregon’s own Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Their 1997 album Zoot Suit Riot was not only a surprise hit that year, but became one of my favorite releases of the genre.
The Daddies strayed from that neo-swing sound on subsequent albums, and to be honest I lost interest. It’s not that I don’t support artists following their own muse, but I came for the swing and the swing alone. But I knew they were still out there plying their trade, and so I rooted for them from the sidelines and I hoped that one day they would return to that style. And return they have on the recently released White Teeth, Black Thoughts.
I’ll spare you a lot more words and I’ll tell you that if you liked Zoot Suit Riot, you will like this album and you should buy it. Bandleader, lead singer, and main creative force Steve Perry has crafted a set of fun, inviting songs that more than anything else are just plain fun to listen to. The album kicks off in style with the punchy Dixieland-inspired romp “The Babooch,” and all of a sudden it’s 1997/98 all over again.
It’s pretty much one big party from there on. Some of the highlights for me are “Whiskey Jack,” a rocket-powered cover of Louis Jordan’s “Doug the Jitterbug,” and the slightly dark, slinky title track. White Teeth, Black Thoughts is a bit front-loaded but the dropoff isn’t terribly noticeable. There’s a neat little production trick on “Jake’s Frilly Panties” that adds a scratchy record effect and a heavy dose of compression to help you imagine what it would have been like hearing CPD back in the day. Also, “Huffin’ Muggles” has cool to spare and is probably the best song on the back half.
So to sum up: This is a really fun album, I’m thrilled to see the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies doing what I think they do best, and you should buy the album and go see them live. You can get all that information on their website.