When I was growing up my Dad had a Datsun. It was a bright orange estate (“station wagon” if you prefer) and stuck out like a sore thumb. Which is what you’d imagine Matt, Phil, Christian and Dolf must do in their small New Zealand town whenever they go home. After all, the land of the Kiwi isn’t exactly renowned for producing long-haired, ’70s-obsessed, hard rockin’ bands, although I did hear a distorted guitar chord on a Crowded House record once, I think.
When The Datsuns emerged a couple of years ago, as retro-rock was in its prime ascendancy, there was a lingering feeling that although they had the attitude, the looks and the suitably manic live personas, there was one thing missing – quality songs.
Thankfully, Outta Sight/Outta Mind rectifies this situation. It’s big, it’s dumb, it’s entertaining, and if you’re the sort of person who could get into Jet if only they swapped their Beatles fixation for a Led Zeppelin one, then this may just be your stairway to musical heaven.
Speaking of Led Zepp, Outta Sight/Outta Mind was produced by none other than John Paul Jones, a ringing endorsement if ever there was one. And for the most part the combination of legendary musician producer with worshipping band works a treat.
The best bits of Outta Sight/Outta Mind are of the fast and rollicking variety. Messin’ Around is built around a groovy, bluesy, hard riff that the likes of ZZ Top and Free would’ve been proud of. Get Up! (Don’t Fight It) is as infectious a party rock tune as its title suggests. The delightfully monickered Hong Kong Fury (one for ’80s cartoon fans) has an Audioslave-ish guitar riff that demonstrates the common Led Zepp influence, while Don’t Come Knocking sounds bizarrely like Motley Cr�e in style and delivery, with some cool guitar solo-ing and widdling that are incomprehensibly faded out too early.
There are signs that The Datsuns are developing some more subtle sides to their otherwise straightforward sonic clip-round-the-earholes too. The ultra ’60s bridge, complete with organ, in Girls Best Friend is perhaps a bit over-the-top, but the almost-reflective vibe of What I’ve Lost (kind of like The Coral on heat) isn’t bad.
The best is saved till last, however, with I Got No Words, which by Datsuns standards is a veritable epic, clocking in at five minutes, and taking in plaintive verses that give way to pounding drums, up-for-it guitar solos and Dolf de Datsun sneering for all he’s worth.
My Dad’s Datsun was pretty ugly to look at, was steeped in a tradition from two decades earlier, had no fancy bells or whistles, and yet was strangely likeable. I think you can you see where this is heading… Dolf & co sing, “Just because it’s pure and simple, doesn’t make it right,” in Messin’ Around. We don’t believe you boys – your own music tells us otherwise.