Tav Falco & the Panther Burns
(In the Red)
As a filmmaker in Memphis in the ’70s and ’80s, Tav Falco did his best to document the musical greats from his home town. But since 1989 he’s been making music of his own. Panther Phobia is his latest set of raucous recordings glorifying the early rockabilly and electric country blues of Memphis, much in the same way his films once did. Falco pays homage to the likes of Charlie Feathers, Guitar Gable, and Jessie Mae Hemphill with tinny, abrasive guitars, distorted vocals, and rattling drums. Trashcan reverb permeates the tracks here, giving Panther Phobia a sound reminiscent of old AM radio. The disc opens with a cover of Hemphill’s " Streamline Train " powered by a stomping locomotive backbeat. " The Young Psychotics " is a hot-rod rocker outfitted with deranged female backing vocals. On slower blues numbers like " Cypress Grove " and " Mellow Peaches, " Falco affects the appropriate air of liquor-sodden sadness. There are a couple of missteps — the drawn-out " Panther Phobia: Manifesto " and " Once I Had a Car, " which is full of distracting squeals. Mostly, though, Falco and his Panther Burns stay on course with songs about cars, women, more cars, and more women, and a gutsy lo-fi sound that brings garage punk back to its roots in Memphis rockabilly blooze.