Exene Cervenka and The Original Sinners
Whilst reading this review I urge you to stop fussing with your hair, take off those ridiculously tight trousers and cast your mind back to the 1970s. If, like me, you weren't alive back then, simply image a world of flairs, ABBA and the birth of punk rock (there can't be that much more to the 70s right?).
Exene Cervenka was (according to her record label, and who are we to argue?), a punk goddess, one of the originals; think Chrissie Hynde and you're about there. We're not talking the immaculately preened, pitch perfect, wall of guitar punk that we have today, but the charity shop safety pin wearing, in your face dirty punk of the 70s.
This new album from Exene sees her teaming up with a three-piece rockabilly outfit and they make a great team. The style is an unashamed blend of back to basics punk, glam and rockabilly; if you are a fan of any of these, you should enjoy Sev7en. The opening track 'It ain't supposed to be' sets the tone and pace for the rest of the album: it's upbeat and relentlessly drives you on, quickly moving from verse to chorus through some bluesy but not over the top guitar solos. The song writing and execution are a great example of knowing exactly how much is enough. Verses are generally short and punchy leading nicely into the next section. The pace of every song carries you through the album sometimes leaving you thinking you must have missed something. It's not that things are non-descript, simply that you'll need to listen a few times before things start to stick.
The Sinners are musically fantastic and have been recorded and produced very well. The band is tight and rocks like a really funky old dude in a cowboy hat tearing it up at your cousin's wedding in Alabama. A perfect example is 'Ghost in the highway', it's perfect driving music, especially if you drive a big rig and have a call sign like BigJo on your CB radio. Sadly it's followed by a weaker track 'History Now' where Exene's voice seems to break down a bit and isn't helped by the harmony in the choruses showing her up.
That's the main downfall of this release: the vocals. In this day and age we're used to everything being tightly tuned and sweet melodic voices and Exene is famous for being anything but! Her notes tend to wander in and out of pitch, it fits the style of the music well, but over the course of the whole album it can be a bit grating. It would have been nice if the male vocalist from the Sinners could have sung a track or two to break things up a bit, his backing vocals are always harmonious and soulful, although fairly rare.
Overall Sev7en is fun, rocking and in your face. Don't expect modern production tricks or commercial punk rock as you won't find it here. I'd suggest borrowing a copy first before deciding if you like it, but once you give it a chance the album should grow on you.