Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stray Cats

  • Built for Speed [EMI America, 1982] B-
  • Rant n' Rave With the Stray Cats [EMI America, 1983] B-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Built for Speed [EMI America, 1982]
Though the soft, shuffling bottom makes up in volume what it lacks in angle of attack and Brian Setzer integrates quite an array of modernistic exotica into his pickin', the mild vocals just ain't rockabilly. You know how it is when white boys strive for authenticity--'57 V-8 my ass. B-

Rant n' Rave With the Stray Cats [EMI America, 1983]
I love the sound of this record--it's much bigger and rawer, as if Built for Speed's prettification was just to get over. Only an ideologue would deny that these unlikely pop stars tear into rockabilly readymades with twice the gusto of any purists or authentics now recording. And Brian Setzer is the snazziest guitarist to mine the style since James Burton. But he's also a preening panderer, mythologizing his rockin' '50s with all the ignorant cynicism of a punk poser. He's no singer, no actor, no master of persona. And if he can write songs he didn't bother. B-