Chandler Travis is surely the busiest working musician on Cape Cod, splitting his time between the Catbirds, the Chandler Travis Three, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic and the Incredible Casuals. That last outfit may ring some bells among older Bostonites; it has been performing around Beantown (and the Cape) since 1980. Before the Incredible Casuals, Travis performed in Steve Shook’s Shook and the Club Wow, a comedy/music duo that toured regularly with George Carlin.
So, right, grizzled veteran, one more baby boomer refusing to give up the rock ‘n roll ghost, yadda yadda yadda….
Except that Catbirds Say Yeah! is a pretty damn fine record, regardless of the vintage of its performers. It’s well worth saying “Yeah!” about, even if you hadn’t been prompted by the album title. Travis and his compadres – drummer Rikki Bates, all-purpose player Dinty Childs (guitar, mandolin, accordion, etc.), and guitarist Steve Wood – play a giddily intense, goofily hardball kind of garage rock that sounds like the Sonics crossed with early R.E.M., or maybe Big Dipper cut with first album Feelies. Catbirds Say Yeah may not be “of” the moment, but it’s totally “in” the moment, wholly committed and totally engaged to the point where the music hardly sounds retro at all.
Take “Red Red,” for instance, a blues-based banger that starts with a ragged riff and rampages on from there. It’s taut and loud and not at all self-serious, rhyming “that’s right!” and “all night!” in an exuberant shout-along call and response. It’s a bar band song taken to the nth degree, nothing fancy but excellently done. Elsewhere, the Catbirds dip into college-rock-ish psychedelia, coloring rackety anthems with tight harmonies. “Changing Names” is a hard-charging song permeated with Byrdsian euphoria, a bit of daydream tucked into its relentless propulsion. The ballad “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” borrows the epic anthemry of Teenage Fanclub. And “Who’s Sorry Now” sounds like the dBs with Keith Moon on the kit, or hell, like a drunken off-take of “I Can See for Miles.” That drummer, by the way, is a wild card, turning careless romps (“Stoned”) into pummeling catharses. Catbirds songs are pretty nailed down, but Bates infuses a chaotic, anything-could-happen energy into the mix.
Chandler Travis wrote and recorded Catbirds Say Yeah! almost simultaneously with a Chandler Travis Three-O album called This Is What Bears Look Like Underwater, and since it’s been a few months, he’s probably got another two or three CDs in the pipeline as well. Let’s hope they’re all this intense, this full of joy, this explosively energetic. Sure, I’ll say “yeah” and also, score one for the grizzled veteran.
DOWNLOAD: “Red Red” “All I Wanna Do Is Love You” “Who’s Sorry Now”