Artist: Left Lane Cruiser
Album: Shake and Bake
Release date: May 31, 2019
The deal. Maybe sleaze rock isn’t the most precise way to describe Left Lane Cruiser’s Shake and Bake. It’s not salacious or misogynistic. The sleaze, or perhaps grease, comes from the guitar tones and song grooves which bounce in a decidedly, delightfully sleazy way. It’s funky, but not funk. If you’ve ever gone to a music festival and heard a rock band that makes you want to dance, and that has the drunkest people in the crowd dancing, you’ve probably seen sleaze rock. The Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies epitomize the genre but Left Lane Cruiser are pretty masterful practitioners of the form.
Left Lane Cruiser is Freddy J IV on vocals, bass, and guitar, with Pete Dio on drums. Their sound is raw. Freddy J’s guitar carries the songs, with a nasal tone and a ragged approach that nods at Hill Country blues, but is ultimately a little more aggressive and distorted. Freddy J also has an amazing voice, with a wear like he’s been chain smoking all night while talking in a loud, crowded room after having accidentally traded vocal cords with Kathleen Turner, who had been doing the same.
The album has a lot of great songs, but I love “Roll Me,” which is bluesy funk metal, including a riff that sounds like it’s being scratched out on a sheet of aluminum. The tone is so perfect, you almost don’t need a song around it. But of course, there’s a song, and it’s catchy. “Mule Plow Live” is more of a blues dirge, constructed atop a positively raw slide guitar riff. The slide isn’t a smoothly beautiful Allman Brothers line or a rhythmic Elmore James. Instead, Left Lane Cruiser gives us a vertigo-inducing hook that feels like it could spin away from the song. “The Waltz” is slower, with a gentle melody that gives the song an oddly pleasant Bob Seger vibe. If Seger was interested in spartan arrangements, crunchy guitars, and had somehow become influenced by grunge.
Straight talk. The songs here are simple, giving them all a similar sound. It works well for an album experience, with one song flowing into another. Other than “Roll Me,” I’m not sure there’s a song I’d grab to play by itself. But Shake and Bake isn’t about songwriting. It’s about creating a feeling and in that regard, Left Lane Cruiser stuck the landing.
The confession. This was in my email for a bit. I saw a bunch of reviews when the album came out, which actually made me feel less guilty about not reviewing it. It seemed like the album got some attention. I threw it on again this summer and I still liked it and thought it would be a fun review to write.
Closing arguments. I love ragged duos like this. Not like White Stripes or Black Keys, who are fairly polished within their self-inflicted constraints, but wilder duo-bands, like Whitey Houston and Japandroids. And I also love the blues, and Shake and Bake has some killer blues slide. And, as previously mentioned, I have a real weakness for sleaze rock. So this is a perfect storm of blues rock goodness for me, but I think most fans of just one of those genres will get a kick out of Shake and Bake.
So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.