“Rock n roll has no beginning and no end for it is the very pulse of life itself”…the immortal words of Larry Williams ring prophetically in my ears – because if one band define rock n roll it is indeed The Botswanas ! I am excited, overjoyed, happy as a dog with two tails. Rock n roll has KO’d me yet again. The cause for my state of delirium is this little ol’ rock n roll band from New Haven, Connecticut, known as The Botswanas, whose latest release ‘Mockers and Rods’ is quite possibly one of the best rock albums of the 90’s ! Dismiss my ravings as that of a sad old rock dog if you must, but my rock n roll education has taught me to recognise the good from the bad, and the great from the good. This record is fucking great ! The Botswanas have been treading the boards since 1991, and since that time have perfected their unique style of trashy edged pop punk. The band comprises Danny Ly on bass, Price Harrison on guitar, Kami Candella (ex-Friggs) on drums and the mesmerising Eileen Ziontz on vocals. The Botswanas released their debut LP ‘Cream Machine’ on their own Feralette label in 1995 to rave reviews. Muscled-up tunes dominated by ‘the riff ’, and complimented ever so deliciously by Joan Jett/Chrissie Hynde type vocals was always going to result in one bitchin’ record. Punters world wide have anxiously been awaiting the release of their new record. The wait has been worthwhile. Whilst still retaining the distinctively tuff riff-oriented formulae, the songs on ‘Mockers and Rods’ successfully manage to combine other rock styles. The sound is hard to nail down. I can hear traces of The Muffs, vintage Girlschool, The Ramones, or a trashed out Joan Jett. Throw in a dose of any 60’s punk garage band, with the pop sensibilities of Blondie and you start to see why I’m raving. The New Haven Advocate got it right when they wrote “The illegitimate daughter of Chrissie Hynde and David Johansen singing with The Kinks in The Lyres’ garage with the Sonics’ instruments through the Stooges’ speakers”. Power punk rich in hooks and melody which will fry your brain and electrify your senses. Still need convincing ? Permit me to put ‘Mockers and Rods’ under the microscope. If raunchy trashed out punk is your bag, you can’t go past ‘Uptight’, ‘Soul Kiss’ or ‘You Could Lose Yourself’. All are very riffy, catchy, stacked with an abundance of melody, and topped with whisky smoothed femme vocals. So punk music doesn’t do it for you, but garage pop does ? ‘Pretty Things Are Unfair’ should put a smile on your dial with it’s instantly likeable Muffs-like quality. The pseudo bugglegum antics of ‘Jimmy And His Amps’ should justifiably put it in the charts. Cross The Archies with Redd Kross and you have the complete pop song. ‘Junior High Knockout’ is further evidence of pop genius. A cheesy tongue-in-cheek commentary on the stereotypical high school teen queen, encapsulating The Botswanas ‘chewing-gum and leather’ brand of heavy pop perfectly. ‘Pretty And Wild’ and ‘Ocean Eyes’ are two well crafted slower numbers which push the rich, lush and beautiful vocals of Eileen to the surface. Comparisons to an impassioned Chrissie Hynde are unavoidable, and that is a deserving compliment. Through the albums’ entirety, the song writing talent on display is clearly first rate. Coupled with the big, clean sounding production, you’d be mistaken for thinking these cats were major label stars. They damn well should be, and are urgently deserving of your attention, for rock n roll of such high quality only comes along every so often. Wise up, escape your music doldrums and take a dose of The Botswanas. Delirium guaranteed !
Note: Article originally appeared in Vicious Kitten Fanzine – 1998