So many bands have tried and failed to emulate The Ramones in at least one aspect of their persona. Whether it be the machine gun dynamic of their short, razor sharp pop songs or the matching clothes and hairdos, Joey, Johnny, Marky and Dee Dee's influence is everlasting. In the case of Tennessee based quartet Those Darlins, it's the collective surname that provides the link. Three quarters of it at any rate. Formed as a three-piece in their hometown of Murfreesboro in 2007, the trio of Darlins - Jessi (guitars, bass and vocals), Kelley (bass, guitars and vocals) and Nicki (bass and vocals) - have spent the ensuing four years beavering away honing their sound to the rockabilly-infused, bubblegum punk that stands before us today. Having released their self-titled debut in 2009 and picked up an endorsement from The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach along the way, a re-evaluation of their sound that saw them recruit male drummer Linwood Regensburg culminated in a new batch of songs that was to become the long-awaited follow-up. Adding the services of producer Jeff Curtin - whose previous credits include Vampire Weekend's debut - and engineer Ed Rawls - himself respected for his work with Black Lips on Veni Vidi Vici and Good Bad Not Evil - it soon became clear to all and sundry that album number two would be barking up an entirely different tree to the traditional country roots of its predecessor.
Fast forward to February 2012 and Screws Get Loose is ready in all its bedraggled glory. We say that because despite Those Darlins' deeply Southern background, there's as much in common here with the debauched rock'n'roll of The Runaways or The Quireboys as any Wanda Jackson or Carter Family comparisons that may be lingering from the first record. Add a naive innocence not exactly a million miles from the first Best Coast record or Kristen Gundred's earliest forays into vinyl releases when Dum Dum Girls was essentially a solo project and you're in the right ball park.
Comprising 11 songs in total, Screws Get Loose is an eventful collection where The Go-Go's skip merrily along Dogs D'Amour's bourbon stained footpath ('Screws Get Loose'), The Donnas go lo-fi ('Let U Down') and Tenpole Tudor steal the Vivian Girls' thunder ('Mystic Mind'). That's not to say Those Darlins don't have personalities of their own. They do, in spades. Take 'Be Your Bro' for example, its theme seemingly centered around an unwanted suitor ("I just wanna be your brother, you just wanna be my boyfriend"). Closer in structure to The Ramones' summery garage pop diversions than the full throttle punk they're more renowned for, it highlights a more savvy and sheeny approach than their previous record suggested, 'DUI Or Die' excepted.
Sometimes Screws Get Loose becomes a little samey and repetitious, but overall, its a pleasant antidote to those cold mid-winter blues while providing Those Darlins a steady platform with which to reach a wider audience.
7Dom Gourlay's Score