Album Review: Tyler Keith – The Last Drag

Do you like rock ‘n’ roll? I mean the sweaty, greasy, sloppy, noisy stuff, the kind of music that gets your heart pumping and makes you want to get involved somehow – air guitar, head-nodding, first pumping – to more fully experience it? Then I’d very much like to direct your attention to The Last Drag, the new album from Memphis rocker Tyler Keith.

Keith writes all ten of the tunes on this LP, and he plays multiple instruments: guitar, bass, organ – and does all of the lead vocal work. He’s joined throughout by drummer/bassist Bronson Tew, and a list of guest artists helping out includes the estimable Jimbo Mathus. His name alone offers enough cred to make it a must-hear, and while it’s true that The Last Drag sports a musical sensibility that’s very much in line with that of Mathus, Keith has his own sound.

Just when you think that you’ve sorted out what kind of an album it is, The Last Drag surprises. “Born Again Virgin” is reminiscent of down and dirty ‘70s New York City, Dolls- and Heartbreakers style. The moody “Shame, Lies & Cruelty” has a high lonesome vibe, featuring delightfully evocative strings and brass. “Take Me Home” might remind you of The Stooges or Bach’s Bottom-era Alex Chilton. The title track is kinda Stonesy.

The roaring guitars and pummeling sonic attack of “In the Parking Lot” favors energy over tunefulness; it’s a noisy mess, but it’s supposed to be one, and succeeds on that level.”Down by the…” is redloent of The Cramps. “Beat Temptation” is a catchy melody wrapped in itchy burlap. And the r’n’r throwback of “Scarlett Fever” feels like an ace bar band nearing the end of their set when nearly everyone but hardcore fans have gone home; they’re playing for those listeners and them alone. But you can join that club.

Detractors might comment that Keith could have taken a few extra moments and tuned his guitar before recording these songs. That, of course, misses the point. This is rock ‘n’ roll, the real deal. Leave tuning to those prog guys!