Joy Ride - The Seat Belts (Super Torque Records)
What is it about Michigan rock bands releasing debut albums 30 years after they were regularly working the live circuit? The Ramrods did it a few years back and The Seatbelts, now well and truly reformed, continue in the same vein. Contemporaries of the similarly non-prolific Sonic's Rendezvous Band, they've unleashed "Joy Ride" onto an unsuspecting public with rock and roll seemingly in its death throes. Maybe, just in the nick of time.
This is a 13-song trip down Interstate 94 that ignores the pot holes. It's straight-up rock and roll with its roots in the '50s. Greg Upshur is a rock and roll singer in the truest sense of the term - vocally he's recalling Robert Gordon. Guitarists Rick Mills and Chris Flanagan favour clean tones without gloss or sheen. If the band wore collars they'd be blue - just as it tends to be with real rockers from the Motor City and environs. Those muscle car mentions in "Age Group Rocker" are entirely appropriate.
With a name like The Seatbelts you'd expect driving songs and "Joy Ride" isn't a letdown. It also offers what passes for an anthem in "American Bandstand", the sort of aspirational, longing-for-the-West Coast/stardom rocker that bands used to produce for something called The Hit Parade.
"Girl Off The Street" is another that proves these guys had/have the sort of pop smarts that turned The Romantics into stars (in Australia of all places) while maintaining their cred at home. She's long moved off the block and lives in Manhattan but I'd love to know what the subject of "I Want To Marry Patti Smith" thinks of the homage. It's an outright rocker that wastes no energy over its 1min20sec.
"Untrue" gets a little scuzzier while "Workin' The Line" ups the heaviness quotient with iron clad drumming and a hefty bass-line (props to Tony Bojanic and Skid Marx respectively.) "Baby, Baby, Baby" rocks as hard as anything here until the breakdown - and then cranks it back up again.