Big Boy Pete and The Squire – Hitmen (2013)

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If these names ring a bell, that’s because they’ve been creating critically acclaimed concoctions for a mighty long while.

Big Boy Pete is actually Peter Miller, whose accomplishments, in a brief nutshell, include lead guitarist for the famed British 1960s band the Jaywalkers, countless solo outings, and collaborations with Bill Bonney of the Fendermen and Hilton Valentine from the Animals.

The Squire is far better known as Squires of the Subterrain, and for the past couple of decades he’s been releasing one marvelous missive after another. Donning a host of hats, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has carved a nice and nifty place for himself in the underground world of psychedelic surf rock.

Several years ago, Squires of the Subterrain released an album called Big Boy Pete Treats, which Big Boy Pete penned material and twiddled the dials for. However, this time around, not only does he co-author songs with the Squire, but he also contributes to the cacophony and flexes his cool and chirpy pipes. A fair amount of the tunes on Hitmen (Rocket Racket Records) were initially composed by Big Boy Pete in 1966. He figured the Jaywalkers would record them, but they weren’t interested. Thankfully, Big Boy Pete saved the songs, and now here they are. But they’re not in their original format, as the lyrics have been changed and some of the melodies have been slightly retooled.

Revisions aside, Hitmen sounds like a homespun garage pop album from days gone by. To give the album even more of a vintage feel, it was recorded in analog. No digital doggies, declare the liner notes, and that right there is a major plus in my book. Dominated by quirky, bubbly pop ditties jangling with tasty juices, Hitmen is additionally enhanced by weird, witty and warped poetry.

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Calories go up, salaries go down, it was the either the dole or rock and roll are words of wisdom preached on the bright and bouncy “Trailer Trash,” an ode to a woman who married herself, where the jumpy power pop rhythm chording of “American Spring” is a keen commentary on misguided politicians and the crappy economy.

Propelled by a giddy beat and a bit of a rockabilly edge, “Wasn’t In The Dream” is so infectious and invigorating that it could be a hit single. Shrouded in a dark cloud of gloom and doom, the disturbing “Amber” tells the sad tale of an abducted child, complete with strangled screams and the kind of Cookie Monster styled growl death metal bands are associated with, and “All The Fun Of The Fair” could pass as the great grandchild of “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite,” with its whirling, twirling, festive frills. Glutted with jaggedly irresistible hooks, peculiar tempos and harmonious vocals, Hitmen emits a playful vibe through and though. Pulsating with nervous energy and intriguing angles, the disc deftly articulates the true meaning and intent of rock and roll.

Reflections of prized popnicks such as XTC, The Dentists and Cleaners From Venus, salted with pinches of The Beach Boys, The Kinks and The Rutles, regularly arise on Hitmen, but Big Boy Pete and The Squire definitely have their own unique thing happening. A fantastic effort this is, so let’s cross our fingers, eyes and toes and hope the fellows get together soon and do it again!

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 on the national charts with "Stand By Me" - which is ironically one of her favorite songs, especially the version by John Lennon. She has also contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as associate editor of Rock Beat International. Paterson's own publications have included Inside Out, and Twist And Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.