Produced by Jimmy Sutton of Hi-Style Records the record was originally released in 2010, but was this year re-released by major label Rounder Records and debuted at number one on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. The Oklahoma native, like his tracks suggest, is a country boy and has played in punk bands since he was 13, but as is evident in his music and his style, he’s a 50’s boy at heart. Channelling the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and even Johnny Cash, his debut album is superb proof of the longevity, familiarity, and relevance of a genre many believe has ceased to exist. It’s glamorous to say punk’s not dead, but boy oh boy is rockabilly, blues, roots, bluegrass, and country not only alive, but thriving. Here ladies and gents is a man that perfectly fits the billing for playing at Hilly Kristal’s now defunct CBGB’s.
His voice and lyrics are straight out of another time, “Scratching circles on the old dance floor,” he wails on the aptly titled ‘Scratching Circles’ in his gristly booze soaked voice as the pinups twirl to the infectious rhythms he offers at every turn. He has it all down to a tee and his attention to detail is impeccable, even his slow R&B number ‘A Gentle Awakening’ gives us the same narrative approach the likes of which we’ve not seen since early Motown, “Put the paper down baby, I had a dream at dawn, a terrible storm blew over covered up the morning sun.” This is what Duffy and all the other pretenders only dream of sounding like.
This is fast and rebellious music for those nights where you just want to lose yourself and have a good time; the 12 song record comes in at a staggeringly quick 34 minutes with the majority of the tracks barely making the three minute mark. This is the entire score of Grease condensed into 2 minutes and 59 seconds and you can skip all those dull bits with reflections in paddling pools. Urgh. This is pure adrenaline and if you want to show someone a good time then just play them ‘Fire Bug’ or ‘Scandalous’ two tracks that bring new meaning to the word fun. If you don’t want to run out and buy some alligator shoes, a bottle of whiskey, a pack of smokes, and then dance till your dead then you should check your pulse because mine’s racing just thinking about these tracks.
McPherson’s voice is a series of contradictions that only make his sound more enticing. He’s raw and throaty and packed with visceral energy, but he has smooth frills that simply let his lyrics slip out. He’s a rhyming poet from a time gone by come back to revitalise us in an age where we’re happy to settle for copycats. Title track ‘Signs & Signifiers’ is one of the most interesting on the record sounding like a clash between The Smiths and Johnny Cash. If that guitar sound doesn’t remind you of ‘How Soon Is Now’ then call me Marr and you be my Morrissey.
You shouldn’t listen to McPherson unless you’re prepared to be left feeling elated, but you should listen to him if you like good, infectious, big band music because the man knows what he’s doing inside out. He’s not a copycat, he’s a creator and what he’s created is a record and a sound which does more than hark back to the 50’s it recreates them for 2012. This is the child of invention.
Signs & Signifiers is out now.
- 'Fire Bug'
- 'Scratching Circles'
- 'Dimes For Nickels'