"Skabilly Rebel: The Roddy Radiation Anthology"
(REVIEW BY RUTLEDGE)
The difference between Roddy “Radiation” Byers and all of those wanna-be Mike Ness wifebeater-wearing macho dickwad posers out there today is that rockabilly has been in Byers’s soul FOREVER.
Best known as The Specials’ guitarist, Roddy Radiation has been toiling away at the helm of obscure English rockabilly side-projects like Tearjerkers, Bonediggers, and Raiders since even before The Specials’ heyday. In doing so, he has kept “skabilly”, the unfashionable genre he invented, alive and well. The SKABILLY REBEL anthology collects 19 of RR’s very best post-Specials tunes, and the whole affair is a delightful, infinitely-listenable document. The hybrid style adds pinches of ska rhythms to jumpy, twangy 50’s rockabilly stylings, and the end result is hard to refute. Fuck that hyper-testosterone punkabilly shit that gives rockabilly a bad name---this is the real deal, closer to Carl Perkins, Bill Haley, Johnny Burnette, and Link Wray than it is to ANYTHING that’s remotely hip today. I’m talking soulful, gritty, country-fried roots rock with HEART. Byers’ arrangements have always been tasteful, stressing alluring melodies and catchy guitar lines rather than going for the jugular with speed and muscle. Songs like “Desire” and “Fallen Angel”, then, sound remarkably refreshing even in a day and age when roots rockabilly is largely considered a dead genre. This is the kind of stuff you listen to while you’re drinking on the porch at dusk, NOT the shit they play while a bunch of boneheads pummel each other at some smoke-filled scenester dive.
As a whole, this collection harkens back to the days when rockabilly crooners were skinny, pretty, heartbroken troubadours rather than intellectually-challenged glorified he-men trying too hard to get laid. It’s damn nice to hear a tried-and-true musical formula regurgitated not only with reverence, but also with such first-rate musical gusto and well-honed songwriting chops. For those of you jumping on the rockabilly bandwagon, why not let Roddy Radiation show ya how it’s done?
Section: album reviews
Album Title: Skabilly Rebel: The Roddy Radiation Anthology
Known for his work with the seminal Ska band The Specials, Roddy Radiation was a founding member, guitarist and songwriter. Besides being a major contributor of the original Ska revival and British punk movement, Roddy was the originator of a musical style called "Skabilly". Roddy's latest release, "Skabilly Rebel," is an anthology of Roddy's musical explorations over the last 20 years. The various groups such as The Bonediggers, The Tearjerkers and The Radiers were different manifestations of Roddy's musical line-ups, but were all lead by Roddy. According to Roddy, he noticed that "black and white players borrow form each other, and hybrids, mixtures are the key to progression" and thus, Roddy fused his two favorite styles, Ska and Rockabilly. Album opener "Desire" has sweet surf guitar intro drenched in reverb that shifts into a driving hot-rod rockabilly sound. On the tune "Bonedigger" the main guitar line borrows from The Munsters TV show theme while Roddy's crooning is reminiscent of Johnny Rivers. The overall effect of this song is an iceberg cool. The song "Fallen Angel," with its more contemporary sounds induced by synth stabs and new wave groove, is not as strong as the other tunes but is still a worthwhile listen. Leaning more on the Ska side, "Reckless Romance" is guaranteed to get the attention of any rudeboy or rudegirl with its syncopated guitar sweeps and rocksteady beat. At first approach the genre Skabilly might seen like a contradiction but Roddy Radiation, the genre's pioneer, makes it accessible, compelling and playful.
This is from the national magazine DIRTY LINEN (the magazine of folk and
world music) based in Baltimore.
It will run in the December 2002/January 2003 issue.
Roddy Byers is a nobody. Roddy Radiation, however, lives in that netherworld between fame and obscurity. Like Warren Zevon, in the Bizarro world he's a star, but in this one he's doomed to the fringes of rockabilly fame. As a founding member of The Specials, he transformed ska into a mainstream force. Here, with the Bonediggers, the Raiders, and the Tearjerkers, he rips skabilly a new reputation as a driving, straightforward, and fundamental force in modern music. From the guy who wrote The Specials' "Gangsters," there's the thumper "Desire" and the smoothly produced "Blue Angel," an unreleased and angelic demo. Byers' influences range far beyond ska to roots-rock, punk and twangy rock 'n' roll. It's a rainy night in London and this disc is the way to duck out of it.