Roll over Marc Bolan and kick Steve Jones out of bed. Devilish Presley are back. It's time to get some loud guitars down yer.
Loud guitars on a Devilish Presley album? That, of course, is not exactly news. Devilish Presley have certainly never been shy of whacking it all up to 11. But this, the band's third full-length release, sees the band employing an even bigger, beefier sound than before. Memphisto is produced to hit you right between the ears. It's shamelessly, gleefully overdubbed, overdriven, and at times downright over the top. The album sounds significantly different to the band's stripped-down live incarnation, where the basic guitar/bass/drum machine/vocals mash-up comes at you unadorned. In the studio, different rules apply. Devilish Prseley have clearly set out to create a snorting, seething, glam-bastard monster of an album, and blow me down but they've succeeded. If it's noise you want, stomp this way.
'Prick Up Your Ears' barges in like a police raid, Johnny Navarro insisting that he's a 'Gutter punk in the house of fame' as the guitar powers ahead. Throughout the album, the band sound as if they've soaked themselves in Americana, but occasionally they'll throw in a Brit-ism for incongruous effect, as here, when the song wraps up on the line 'Prick up your ears, baby/prick up your ARSE!' No sooner have we recovered from that onslaught than 'Robert Johnson' hits us - the song is at once a tall tale and a tribute to the 1930s bluesman and inventor of...well, everything, really. In a way, it's the most substantial number on the album, in that the subject matter is clearly dear to Devilish Presley's heart. They obviously relish getting their lyrical teeth into something a bit more weighty than shameless self-promotion and sideswipes at the London scene, which, by and large, are the themes of most of the songs here. The guitar, naturally, is a big, bad racket, and right at the end quite blatantly goes into the riff from T-Rex's '20th Century Boy', a come-on-then-if-you-think-you're-hard-enough taunt to the ghost of Marc Bolan if ever I heard one.
Just in case Marc still doesn't get the message, the very next song, 'Hammer Horror Glamour', cops the riff from 'Children Of The Revolution', which should ensure that the lawyers prick up their ears if nothing else. 'Black Glitter' is a glam-rock bulldozer of a song, while 'Trucks' lulls us into a false sense of security with a sensitive intro, then goes hog wild with a rip-roaring Jacqui Vixen vocal. 'Boy On the Fence' takes things down a bit for real - it's an acoustic-ish ballad, a side of Devilish Presley we never see in their live shows. 'Billy Rattlestick' has a nice Duane-Eddy-in-the-water-tank guitar intro before firing up into a four on the floor rocker with Jacqui Vixen screaming out the vocal like she's trying to be heard on the other side of the Mojave desert. And then, Johnny Navarro nails his colours to the mast. 'In League With Elvis' is his rock 'n' roll autobiography, a fantastical tale of devilish deals with the king of rock 'n' roll at the crossroads at midnight, a song that builds up to a frenzied crescendo with the drum machine implacably thudding away, never throwing in so much as a fill or a roll. It's a fine example of the Devilish Presley philosophy - in minimalism, there is maximalism. Or, as they would probably express it themselves, 'Hell yeah!'
'Starlings' is a witty, sardonic rant from the point of view of a band on the un-superstar gig circuit. It's pointedly funny: 'Hey babe, ya wanna drink my rider?/All I got is five cans of cider' - splendidly insulting: 'You're dirty, you look like a toilet seat' - and gloriously surreal, as Johnny goes into a free-form rant over the entire last half of the song: 'These American punk bands, they're all sponsored by shoe salesmen in Camden...if I don't make some money soon, I'm going to have to start eating my fans!' I think it was John Peel who said (possibly with special reference to Bruce Springsteen) that when bands start writing songs about being in bands, it's time to get worried. But I think Peelie would allow himself a wry chuckle at this one.
'User Pattern' is a cautionary tale, a more gritty relation of the Stranglers' 'Strange Little Girl', while 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' wins the Word Power award for rhyming 'veracity' with 'mendacity' in the chorus. And to finish, we see Devilish Presley finally giving in to Bo Diddley syndrome. This term, coined by John Peel in reference the 1950s rocker who penned many songs which, essentially, asserted that he was Bo Diddley, certainly suits 'Jukebox Hades', which finds Devilish Presley giving us a song about....Devilish Presley. If it's not exactly the strongest thing they've ever written it contains a few funny lines - the one about Jacqui Vixen driving a truck over your car is a goodie.
This doesn't quite wrap things up, because Johnny Navarro makes an unannounced return with an unbilled acoustic track which may possibly be called 'God Bless Spite And Malice'. In this, he's the last gritty rocker in town, a one-man army against bland clubland and fashion-led psuedo-excitement. The lyrics are cryptic - I suspect few people outside London will understand his references, such as 'Murdering you just got a little nearer/I could do it on any of your three floors' or 'Like every B-movie ever made you'll have a crap ending' - but I suspect denizens of London clubland will suss it out.
So, that's Memphisto. A crazy, funny, rumbustious, grandstanding album, with the biggest, baddest guitar sound this side of Never Mind The Bollocks. And underneath it all, a heart of hardcore determination. Devilish Presley just might be the last band in town who really mean it, man.