Categorized | Album Reviews

Dan Sartian- Too Tough To Live

Posted on 03 February 2012 by Joe

Dan Sartain has always seemed rather clean cut compared to his contemporaries. His tremolo laden rockabilly blues lacks the satanic bar-room brawling of Reverend Horton Heat and shuns the Cramps Hammer Horror surf, yet neither is he the lipstick-on-your-collar wholesome boy from next door.

But on Too Tough To Live Sartain has gone through a Weird Science transformation where he’s turned from a middle class square into a leather jacketed, shade wearing, dive bar cruiser. He’s rediscovered punk-rock and The Ramones are year zero.

Sartain’s always had a rebellious streak and a deep hankering for sweatbox guitars, because he knew he wasn’t Gram Parsons so had to base his style on something else, but only now has he realised there’s no need to bother with twelve bars when merely three chords will do.

Maybe it was working with Jack White’s Third Man label between albums which has made Too Lough To Live edgier than previous efforts like Join Dan Sartain, or more likely it’s mentally moving into the 1970’s.
This is illustrated with opener Nam Vet, which smashes his earlier peace and love openness in to a much gnarlier package, and I Wanna Join The Army which reflects the 70’s attitude of lets napalm the fuckers and get this thing over with.

The blues of Sartain’s earlier work has time and space, whereas Too Tough To Live packs all 13 songs into 19 minutes, the 70’s of coke and speed rather than the 60’s acid and grass. Its homage to the Ramones is unmistakable, Boo Hoo Hoo and Rona (Ramona anyone?) could be from Rocket to Russia complete with lyrics delivered in Joeys attacking drawl, and I’m Aware is Cretin Hop by any other name.

It’s a perfectly American sounding record, filled with a proper grinding blues guitar solo on Fuck Friday and an underlying surf vibe, it even honours county traditions of including a duet, Now Now Now which features The Go Go’s Jane Wiedlin.

The album’s highlights all touch on deep American attitudes to society and their identity: Swap Meet addresses buying dead men’s clothes at thrift markets out of necessity and I Wanna Join The Army has it’s F16’s and shaven heads. While the lack of welfare state and the American Dream are analysed
in I Got Insurance -“I got a car, I took a ride, I got insurance, in case I die”.

With so much crammed in to so little time there isn’t time to get bored as the tracks are over so quick, but this also means much of it blurs into the background a fact he’s proud of as Sartain brazenly proclaims Even At My Worst I’m Better Than You.

Too Tough To Live finally proves Sartain appreciates an air rifle once in a while, rather than just playing with a cap gun, so with a musical rampage just a matter of time he’s defiantly the side to be on.


by David Newbury


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