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Dan Sartain Too Tough to Live Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Effervescent bursts of Ramones-inspired punk rarely breaching the two-minute mark.

Alex Deller 2012

Maybe he changed his number. Maybe his pager’s not working or his Facebook account’s been hacked. Whatever the explanation, lithe southern gent Dan Sartain certainly didn’t get the memo to let him know that once you’re done with your youthful thrashings and ‘progress’ beyond punk, it’s generally not the done thing to revisit the misspent days of one’s callow, carefree youth.

Too Tough to Live, see, has no Hank, no Gram, no Cramps and certainly no mariachi about it, the man’s easy-going country-cum-blues-cum-rockabilly-cum-whatever swagger traded in wholesale for 13 effervescent bursts of Ramones-inspired punk that only once dare to breach the two-minute mark.

Considering he shares the same reverence for all forms of classic American guitar music as his higher-profile patrons (The White Stripes, The Hives and John ‘Speedo’ Reis of Rocket from the Crypt and Hot Snakes infamy), the notion of punk playing a role in Sartain’s sound has never really been in question. But, if earlier outings have offered a bashful wink towards the spunk and spirit of 77 (and a few years either side) then this is the clearest and rudest clarification we could have asked for. Each song is terse and jumpy, representing efficiency in action as a handful of sharp, glinting chords are jangled together to back a catchy hook and a bumper-sticker’s worth of lyrics that Sartain offers as sultry, vulpine hollers in plaintive yet commanding manner.

At their best – songs like I Wanna Join the Army, sole spartan shambler In Death or contender for world’s best ode to buying a smart pair of second-hand kecks, Swap Meet – the tracks soar and appear primed to duke it out with the wonderfully atavistic punk rock revivalism of the In the Red roster. If there’s an occasional lull (such as so-so numbers Boo Hoo Hoo or F*** F*iday) then, heck, each one’s over before you know it and they at least give some sort of wry basis to another of the album’s prime cuts and what has to be one of the year’s best disses so far: "Even at my worst," Sartain proclaims dryly, "I’m better than you." Immodest the proclamation may be, but, heck, you have to admit the fella kinda has a point.

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