The Amazing Crowns
Wow! Fuck yeah! The Crowns are back with a vengeance! If you were a fan of the Amazing Crowns’ self-titled debut album (under their old name, the Amazing Royal Crowns), prepare to be blown away by how much all-around better this one is! Comparing the first disc to Royal is like comparing watching a black & white TV to catching a movie in a theater with full digital surround sound – everything sounds bigger, clearer, and fuller. You can hear every slap on the bass, every crash of the cymbals, every twang of the guitar, and you can even understand what Jason’s singing! Credit producer Joe Gittleman (of Mighty Mighty Bosstones fame) for knowing exactly how to record these guys – they sound cleaner and larger without losing their trademark raw intensity.
While the improved sound quality is a major factor in Royal’s success, the chances the band takes on the album factor even higher. The album finds the band exploring a lot of new territory, while remaining true to the raw, powerful, and unique rockabilly/punk roots that have won them fans around the world. In other words, as the opening track, “Still Royal,” enthusiastically affirms, “Royal to the loyal [they] stay,” but stagnant and predictable they certainly don’t!
For example, the barnstorming “Mr. Fix-It” is an immediate favorite – Jack’s bass and Judd’s drums thunder into your skull while keys, sassy female backing vocals, and JD’s scorching guitar fill out the tune and Jason greasemonkey double entrendes (like “Under your hood I’m a Jack of all trades”)and charismatic growl take the forefront. The tune may not have as much of the rockabilly twang as longtime fans may be used to, but the dynamic energy is palpable on this stomping, dirty rock n’ roll tune, and I can’t imagine sitting still while it plays. Conversely, the heartbreakingly gorgeous ballad “Flipping Coins” (dedicated to Jason’s late cousin) is more country-oriented than anything the Crowns have done before – it’s practically a straight-ahead, old-school lament. That’s not to say the Crowns have forgotten what made them great in the first place – for example, tracks like “Still Royal” and “Halos & Horns” are fiery, supercharged rockabilly tunes with killer ‘77-style punk shoutalong choruses that are sure to get crowds in a frenzy, while tracks like “Perfect Sin,” “Greasy,” and “Hat Size” are in a more straightahead rockabilly vein – but the willingness to experiment definitely helps the band take it to the next level.
Usually, when I anticipate a record as highly as I did Royal, I end up disappointed with it once it finally arrives. Almost unavoidably, I’ll build up my expectations beyond a reasonable level, and will end up feeling short changed. Let me state unequivocally that this is not the case here – Royal exceeds all my expectations by leaps and bounds. Record of the year? Damn sure looks like it! Congratulations, boys – you earned this one!