What's old is new again. What comes around goes around. These time-honored cliches aptly apply to the Imelda May CD Mayhem, which could have been subtitled "Stray Kitten Strut." ("Better late than never" also would be apropos; the record was released in 2010, but I only recently discovered it.) It's a raucous, rocking, rollicking good time, and more than slightly reminiscent of the boys from Long Island.
In fact, two of the songs -- "All For You" and "Bury My Troubles" specifically -- prompted me to check the credits to see whether Brian Setzer was a guest artist. He wasn't, but May's guitarist (and husband) Darrel Higham must have borrowed Mr. Setzer's guitar, amp, and effects pedal. In fact, I challenge you to listen to the guitar solo of "All For You" and NOT hear "Stray Cat Strut."
Clearly in the rockabilly camp, Mayhem still manages to veer off into other genres to keep the disk from being an exercise in pure retro. There is the country twang of "Eternity" and "Proud And Humble." If you're blue and need some commiserating, you can wallow in the dirge-like "Too Sad To Cry." And if you're so inclined, then dance along with "Kentish Town Waltz," which recalls the Pogues, minus the drunken slur.
But uptempto is the order of the day, and the band's toe-tapping tempos are a perfect complement to May's bouncy vocal, the most roly-poly delivery this side of Gwen Stafani. In fact, when I first heard "Inside Out," I was sure that it was a new release from Mrs. Rossdale.
But it is the title track which grabs, demands, and holds your attention. As if the beat and riffs were not enough to pull you in, lyrics such as
Ten pints and then he starts a fight and he lands himself a night
In a cell wearing grey pants and bruises
Twelves mates bangin' on the door, oh the back up vans galore
Never saw such a street full of losers
are impossible to NOT like.
No matter how stable or crazy your life may be, you should make a little room for some Mayhem.