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Rockabilly’s reputation is built on a primal sound that’s equal parts raw energy, skittering guitar, accelerated-heartthump rhythm and the clinking of longneck beer bottles. It’s the musical equivalent of a high-speed chase, albeit one that lasts only a few miles. On their new Never Return to Me…, Hillsborough’s Straight 8s have songs that fit that mold to a teeone, no doubt, with sleeves rolled up. The album-capping “Go-Go Juice,” an ode to home-brewing high-octane fuel, is a classic example. And with its auto-centric message, it also hits one of rockabilly’s three main themes: cars (the other two being girls and faster cars).
But the trio also wanders freely outside the prescribed boundaries, slipping the bonds of tyrannical purism known to plague rockabilly. The Straight 8s wear such versatility well with the record’s three instrumentals. Depending on whether the guitar of band leader and main writer Robert Striegler is set to twangy or atmospheric, they can sound like a surf band orto quote Canadian instrumentalists Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet “We’re not a fucking surf band.” But the 8s are at their best when melody meets rhythm halfway on charmers like “I Wanna Know” and “Baby, Baby, Baby!”, which owe more to the Everly Brothers and golden age country music than they do purebilly. There’s nothing charming, however, about “On Your Knees”; it’s off-putting to hear that titular demand backed by the band at its most aggressive. Skip that one and play “Baby, Baby, Baby!” twice instead.
The Straight 8s are at Hideaway BBQ Friday, Dec. 14, with the Tremors. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and costs $10.