Album Reviews

Dan Sartain – Too Tough To Live

(One Little Indian) UK release date: 30 January 2012

It’s oft said that the difference between a good idea and a bad idea is simply the amount of time spent pursuing it. Well, oft, ish. Occasionally. Once. There. Then.

Take staring at the sun during a solar eclipse. For a brief while, epically amusing. Tremendously brilliant. But, do it for ages, and you probably won’t be smiling. Or laughing. As with so many things, it’s all fun until someone loses an eye. Then it’s all monocular fun, with a 25% loss of depth perception.

The idea of Dan Sartain’s Too Tough To Live is not one that you suspect would sustain a double LP (with additional bonus disc of out-takes, re-imaginings and alternate versions). But, when distilled to something 12 tracks long that blitz by in a shade under 20 minutes, it makes a great deal more sense.

In many ways, Too Tough To Live is a cartoon. Painted in bright primary colours and exceptionally broad strokes. It is pulp fiction, gaudy, bright and unreconstructed. And, far more importantly than any of that, it is immensely good fun. Sartain has this shtick perfected. A rockabilly punk troubadour, pitting Clash vs The Ramones vs Dick Dale vs The Monks. Someone whose lip naturally curls skywards, whose quiff is blacker than engine grease and who almost certainly couldn’t care less about Skrillex.

Examples abound. Now Now Now has a supercharged reptilian riff that grinds away as Sartain and Jane Wielden (of The Go-Go’s) harmonise lyrics that eloquently dissect the gender politics of relationships between 1950s high school students during prom season. Fuck Friday is a bluntly profane surf-rock sing-song, delirious in its shunning of those who aren’t living the lifestyle of a rockabilly troubadour (“On Sunday you will have a BBQ / With a bunch of fucks who look like you / ooooohh oh”). It’s hilariously witty, in a simplistically crude kind of way.

This is an album which precisely and concisely achieves everything that it sets out to. It is minus fat, pretence and extraneous bullshit. Something that is both rare and kind of great. Besides, any album with a song titled I Wanna Join The Army, whose opening lyrics state “I wanna shave my head / I wanna kill kill kill” has got to be worth a third of an hour of your time. If they don’t use it for the next ‘Be The Best’ campaign, the MoD are missing a substantial trick.

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Dan Sartain – Too Tough To Live