CD Review: The Malchicks – To Kill A Mockingbird (Zoho Roots)

Teen acts have been a part of rock and roll since the beginning but few of them bring the sense of musical history and musical accomplishment of the duo known as The Malchicks. Not really a band, but in fact a duo of Scarlett Wrench and George Perez along with some old hands from The Pretty Things along for the ride, The Malchicks manage to breathe some new life into some dusty old blues songs by bringing their natural youthful exuberance and pure love for the music to the fore.

And these songs are plenty dusty. So dusty that if the album weren’t so damn good I would have ragged them for picking such overdone chestnuts as John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom”, Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights, Big City” and the old standard “House of The Rising Sun” made most famous by British rockers The Animals in the ’60’s. But, to my surprise, the duo manage to rise above the familiarity of their material and create an album of these types of songs that sounds vibrant and new again, as if the songs were written this past year by The Malchicks themselves. In the extensive liner notes, Dick Taylor of the Pretty Things (who helps out on guitar here) recalls his brief time in the Stones (pre-Pretty Things) when “pure blues was what it was about” and ties that in with what he sees in Wrench and Perez. For Taylor, he sees the same pure love of the blues in the two youngsters and feels as if they actually “get it” despite being young, white and unoppressed.

He’s right – they get it. But no one’s life is problem-free.

Like these great old songs, The Malchicks themselves (as young as they are) have seen themselves transformed while making the album. Originally a four-piece, two members abandoned the band while in the midst of recording this project forcing the production company behind the album to draft labelmates The Pretty Things and Arthur Brown into the project to help the resulting duo complete their CD. Luckily, seeing the how eager these legends were to support their vision and how much these old hands dug what the young duo were trying to accomplish forced Wrench and Perez to raise their own game, which has led to quite a good album, one of the better debuts of a group I have heard in the past few years. Perezx is a monster on slide guitar and though Taylor helps him out here, one can hear a maturity in his tone and phrasing definitely beyond his years. It’s as if he is already fifty years old. But how can one learn taste? Perez has learned it nonetheless. Wrench is soimply otherworldly. This girl will be known throughout the world one day, whether with this band or somewhere else in her musical life. She is simply astounding, and sings as if she has lived these songs. Forget Amy Winehouse, this girl’s got it.

Those into some greasy, greasy blues and who like The White Stripes, The Black Keys and other gutbucket, stripped-down duos of their ilk will find plenty to like about this CD. Not only do these two youngsters acquit themselves very well musically on this CD but they have amazingly been able to capture the feeling of the material in ways most modern artists just can’t quite master. Great stuff!

Scott