The Phantom Tollbooth

The Deluxtone Rockets
Artist: The Deluxtone Rockets
Label: Tooth and Nail
Length: 39:34 minutes / 11 tracks

Swing's the thing and every hip record label is eager to jump on this happening style sweeping the radio waves. Although better known for an assortment of louder bands from punk to hardcore bands, Tooth and Nail's contribution to the swing genre is a debut release by The Deluxtone Rockets. True to the label's history of offering bands in bombastic form, the Rockets represent swing with a mighty big megaphone. The band cranks out a wild, swinging ruckus that is equal parts nineties neo-jump-swing, Mighty Mighty Bosstone bravado, and Stray Cats-style rockabilly so rowdy it may as well be called punkabilly.

The horn section consists of a mere trumpet, tenor sax and trombone, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in brashness. The music is mostly driven along by unstoppable beats, slamming upright bass licks, and rockabilly guitar rolling all over the map. Holding this tight, but reckless, pandemonium together is Rocketti's urgent and playful vocal delivery. Although he sounds a bit at times like Bosstone's Dicky Barrett, Rocketti's energetic, varied style is more in keeping with lounge than ska-punk.

The Rockets would need twenty more horn players and twenty more years of guitar slinging experience to compete with Brian Setzer and his orchestra, but they do draw favorable comparisons to the current rooster of popular swingsters. Each of these eleven tracks is a relentless barrage of speedy swing so boisterous you can easily imagine the number of guitar strings and drumsticks the band breaks while playing. You might try swing dancing to this mix, but you're bound to break something or someone. Caution is advised.

With nicknames like Johnny "The Ace" Rocketti and Jacob "The Enforcer" Dykema, this Michigan-based band clearly do not take themselves too seriously. This fact is further bolstered by song titles like "God's Cadillac" and "Be Bop a Go Go." Likewise the lyrics are mostly of the just-for-fun variety, invoking dance floor antics and time-tested rock and roll musical metaphors. Digging deeper reveals some simple, but creative, analogies meant to encourage faith. For example, one of the many outstanding cuts, "Rumble with the Devil" layers a message of resisting the Devil with a strong comical veneer and cool retro images of Suits and Kitties at the Voodoo Lounge. Of course, the song is so rambunctious that many listeners will find themselves too busy shaking and shouting to grasp "the point" until later, which might suit this clever band just fine.

The party's just getting started, and this debut album provides a worthy contribution in chandelier-swinging, feel-the-floor quaking excitement. The ability to sweat is the only  prerequisite.

Steven S. Baldwin (8/13/99)


Prepare to jump up and boogie. Nonstop rocking swing similar to The W's---there are no lulls in the music, and every track will have you jumping. These guys are even better live with their "Ring of Fire" and "Dicey's" bass antics. See them if they come to your area. Meanwhile, this is a fun toe tappin', finger snappin' album.

Shari Lloyd (8/23/99)

Tooth & Nail Records have perfected their knack of unearthing hardworking  garage bands with a strong local following and elevating them to a nationwide status. When they went a-shoppin' for a great swing/rockabilly band (to capitalize on the current trend helped along by the now famous Levi's "swing" ad) their wheels took them to Ypsilanti, Michigan, the home of The Deluxtone Rockets.

Hard-hitting, confident, and subtly humorous, The Deluxtone Rockets's self-titled debut could easily become my favorite Saturday Night Album for 1999. The rhythm section of Jimmy Dean's upright bass and the driving beat of Jason "J.J." Sorn on drums rocks in such a hurry, it can barely hang on for the horn section's breaks.  What keeps this band from derailing is lead-vocalist Johnny "The Ace" Rocketti who sounds like the definitive rockabilly frontman with traces of Johnny Cash and Brian Setzer (of Stray Cats fame). Like The W's, The Deluxtone Rockets's faith is evident if you look for it in the lyrics, but not so pronounced that it distinguishes them from general market swing bands at the first listen.

In a genre like rockabilly which can easily fall prey to sounding the same The Deluxtone Rockets's debut beat the odds with a surprisingly varied and even recording with superb production. If they are any bit as good on compact disc as they are live, do yourself a favor and hunt down some tickets for their 45-city tour The Calicoes this fall and winter.

James F. Laverty   9/7/99