“Holy Mackerel! I think Gruppo Sportivo died and came back to life as The Claudettes! You remember Gruppo Sportivo, don’t you? That late-seventies, early-eighties band out of Holland which would have turned the record “industry” on its ears if the damn “industry” had had ears? The band which threatened to breathe life back into music but weren’t mediocre enough? The band which tiptoed around the ways music was being created and opting out? Which gave us such classics as “Beep Beep Love” and “Blah Blah Magazines” which the “listening public” kicked under the rug in favor of so-called classic bands like Journey and Foreigner and… zzzzzzzzz.
Well, the musical gods have given us a second chance! The Claudettes, in fact, are taking the spirit of GS and pushing it over the edge. No borders. No genres, kind of. In fact, Johnny Iguana hates the very idea of genre. When I approached him about the album, he said “I know it’s important to fall neatly in a genre, but I can’t help but just make music that expresses exactly what I want it to express at that time. I hate having to pick one of 10 genres from blogs for tags. Maybe you can tell me what this record is.” Okay, Johnny, I’ll tell you. I don’t f**king know! That’s why I asked you!
I’m kidding, of course. But I really do not know. I’ve listened numerous times (and am listening right now, in fact) and hear so much but understand so little. I do know that every song on the album gives me a jumpstart, that the album is way too short (probably means that I just don’t want it to end), that I hear so many levels of what I consider amazing creativity that it is hard to dissect, that The Claudettes give me that same rush I get every time I hear GS, and that this album will end up on a very special list at the end of the year. Yep, these guys are so over the top that I would not even consider them for Album of the Year. They are way too original for that.
I hear touches of Jerry Lee Lewis at his most manic (which fits, considering that Johnny sometimes pounds those keyboards to freaking smithereens), of cinema (some of the vocal overlays are freaky as hell), of rock ‘n’ roll (and not the standard rock ‘n’ roll but the rock ‘n’ roll you might have heard at some of them house parties Chicago and the Deep South are famous for), of multiple genres wrapping around one another until you cannot recognize any one of them. It must be fun as hell to play in this band. I mean, sometimes there is a common purpose but at others you are free to go crazy. So it seems.
Johnny has played with musical monsters— Junior Wells, Carey Bell, Koko Taylor, Hymie Shimansky. Okay, maybe not Hymie, but plenty of topnotch blues and rock musicians. The Claudettes are the culmination of it all, at this point, and he could stop here and have a legacy others would kill for. But I don’t want him to stop. I want him to slow down just a bit so I can retrace and pick up on The Claudettes first two albums (Infernal Piano Plot… HATCHED! and No Hotel) before moving on for what I hope will be a long and glorious ride down Claudette Trail.
You may have heard something like this before but I haven’t. I mean, the title alone (Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium!) should give you a clue. These guys are the B-movies of the music world— maybe not understood now but in the future, the kings and queens of the universe!
Claudettes… I know it seems like I am putting Johnny Iguana out there like he is the band but he and I both know better. I am just so excited about the album that I wanted to get this written before any calamities struck (like winning the lottery or getting hit by a bus, like Bobby Messano). I will get to you soon, if you are amenable. Be expecting a decoder ring in the mail (you will need it to decode my messages) and a crudely drawn map which, if you follow it closely, will lead you to treasure. Me? I already found mine. This album.
By the way, if I ever get one of those Alexa things, I am going to substitute Berit Ulseth’s voice. Maybe even have her sing the messages. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
—the late, great Frank Gutch Jr., for No Depression