AHHOOOOWEEEE! An earth-shaking blast from the past lands in the form of a compilation of early material by the Flat Duo Jets. Many first discovered the twosome in the 1987 music documentary “Athens, GA: Inside/Out,” where their guitar-and-drums rockabilly pretty much stole the show from R.E.M. and their local comrades… and the Jets weren’t even from Georgia, but rather North Carolina!
Sure, the North American underground yielded other bassless duos in that era — there was the itchy art of Athens’ Method Actors, the cool schlock of Montreal’s Deja Voodoo, the rousing Richmond-via-Los Angeles House of Freaks, to name a few. None could of them could quite match the reckless abandon of the Flat Duo Jets at full throttle, nor the deep vein of old-time rock’n’roll they mined for their repertoire. The Jets made their legend on the 1984 cassette demo In Stereo, wherein guitarist Dexter Romweber howls with vein-poppin’ fervor while drummer Chris “Crow” Smith plays like the ceiling falling down. The two eventually added a bassist for their 1990 eponymous debut album, recorded live in the studio with, quite helpfully, just a smidgen less mania. The results showcase their greasy styles for miles, the twangy reverb on Romweber’s Danelectro guitar a pleasing counterpart to his unmannered rockabilly tenor.
Both of these releases plus a gaggle of tasty outtakes are compiled on the new Wild Wild Love. The Flat Duo Jets are still kicking to this day, but this two-CD collection is far and away the best introduction anyone needs to their music, making clear their influence on later groups like the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the White Stripes. Even if you’re agnostic about rockabilly, Wild Wild Love valuably documents maybe the last cohort of the American music underground with a direct, unironic connection to the regional and stylistic foundations of rock’n’roll.
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.