Since 2004's Player!, blues-centric guitarist/vocalist Nick Curran left his record label, joined up with Kim Wilson's latest incarnation of the Fabulous T-Birds, performed with his own punk-blues combo Deguello, and basically rumbled and tumbled through a number of sundry side projects, all the while eschewing the solo career that led to him taking home the 2004 W.C. Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut. Clearly, this allowed the ever-musically voracious Curran a chance to stretch his chops and imbibe more of the vast array of influences that spark his interests, from '40s jump blues and '50s rock & roll, to '70s punk and '80s hard rock. All of which Curran brings to bear on his fiendishly inspired, 2010 solo comeback Reform School Girl. A fiery, campy, and insanely rockin' album, Reform School Girl sounds like something along the lines of Little Richard backed by the Misfits with Phil Spector recording the proceedings in his garage.
On this high-power album, the larger than life New York bluesman goes back to the roots of post-war Chicago Blues and plays famous tracks by Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Willie Dixon, etc.He's joined by leading contemporary blues stars Bill Perry, Mason Casey, Matt Smith, Jean-Jacques Milteau, Paul Personne and Dimitri Archip from the Black Coffee Blues Band.On "Old School", Popa Chubby (who recently played some UK gigs) smokes TNT, drinks dynamite and shows he can put some speed on the classic tracks of his blues heroes.
Ben Curtis' desertion of Secret Machines and the breakup of On!Air!Library! was justified by this group's first single, a sky-gliding confection that modernized the sighing, swirling, private dancefloor sides of Medicine, Seefeel, and My Bloody Valentine. Included as the finale on Alpinisms, the debut album from Curtis and O!A!L!'s singing Deheza twins, "My Cabal" has the feel of a bonus track; the later recordings that precede it, despite remaining squarely within the domain of late-'80s/early-'90s dream pop in terms of inspiration, are relatively individualist, going well beyond the lucid psychedelia and discreet flickers of Afro-beat and contemporary pop. What pushes these songs past mere worship involves cunning collisions of robust rhythm, caressing noise, and heavenly melody, with each element equally crucial. Good shoegaze/dream pop bands mastered one of them; the most exceptional of the heap, like this group, had all three down. The most striking example here is "Wired for Light," seemingly spawned by Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Peek-A-Boo" and M/A/R/R/S' "Anitina," full of clacking percussion that rattles the ribs, Middle Eastern accents, gale-force atmospherics, and layered vocals that could be casting a spell.