|Photo courtesy of the Sears Portrait Center|
Good bands don’t have to come across as meaningful to have meaning. You can be meaningful if your sole purpose is to entertain. This is one thing Eddie Angel of the instrumental guitar quartet Los Straitjackets is willing to reveal to your un-masked face. According to guitarist Angel, rock ‘n’roll lost the way of fun around 1965. “There’s a good term for what we do--it’s called vintage entertainment,” Angel said from his home in Nashville. “We’re fans of the way entertainment was until the mid-1960s. Then it changed from entertainment to everybody getting on stage and singing about themselves. It’s a real simple idea that’s been lost.” In pursuit of this seemingly lost basic mission since 1995, Los Straitjackets have recorded 16 albums (including a Christmas collection) of instrumental surfs-up sounds pummeled with root equivalent rockabilly and garage rock. Their vibrato-rich chewy twang was featured on an entire blues album by Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater called Rock ‘n’ Roll City. One of their non-instrumental albums is called Sing Along With…and features guest vocals from Big Sandy, Raul Malo, Nick Lowe, and Dave Alvin. But according to Angel not every singer who agreed to be on the recording could make it in. “We had Joey Ramone lined up but then he got sick,” Angel said. “Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) was going to do it but then he got wishy-washy; he’d go back and forth. Brian’s a funny guy.” “But we’re big Beach Boys fans, “Angel continued. “Brian writes great songs. Their harmonies are amazing. It’s like ear candy.” In their Mexican wrestling masks Los Straitjackets might look like the space invaders from the crop circle movie Signs but they’re much less scary to listen to. “There’s a certain sensibility that says rock-n-roll should be fun—mainly,” Angel said, noting there is one Grand Rapids band who shares this entertainment-first thought. “They’re really good musicians,” Angel said of The Concussions, whose members play alongside Angel in a garage band called the Neanderthals. “It’s not that common (anymore) but they want it to be fun for everybody. And Tommy Schichtel is a good bass player,” Angel said of the Closed-Head Injury Crew guitarist. Link Wray and The Ventures are the biggest influence on Los Straitjackets, Angel admits. Angel was even tapped to provide the Wray-like vibe on a recording by pre-Stray Cats rockabilly revivalist Robert Gordon. Angel and company look forward to a return visit to West Michigan. “I really like Grand Rapids,” Angel said. “I think it’s a pretty cool rock ‘n’ roll scene.”
Los Straitjackets wsg The Concussions at Billy's Lounge on Sat Jan 1. Doors 8:30, show 9:30.
Visit Los Straitjackets MySpace page