After about a half-century of rock ’n’ roll, when it appears that it’s all been done before (although I’m still holding out hope that someone will surprise me), it’s heartening to find a band that’s not afraid to blend an assortment of old techniques into a fresh-tasting concoction. On their 17-track debut recording, the Come Ons mix some get-down, Motown-style R&B with sassy surf guitar, doo-wop backup vocals and a little bluesy harmonica. Back it all up with the cheesy-creepy strains of a Hammond organ, hip-shaking percussion and ’90s lo-fi recording principles; toss in a jigger of New Wave sensibility; add a dash of red lipstick and go-go boots, and you’ve got a recipe for a retro-modern cocktail party, uh-huh!
Lead singer Deanne Iovan purrs beguilingly on the opening number, “Whatcha got/goin’ on in there?/Must be/somethin’ good.” Alternating as teasing vixen, heartbroken crooner and stand-offish tough girl, she coos and snarls her way through some pretty crafty lines — “I got a loaded heart and I’m not afraid to use it” — as well as a smattering of trite ones — “All I wanna do/is make love to you.” But for the most part, the lyrics are saucy and clever and the music is fruggin’ cool. A few remakes — “I Get So Excited” from ’70s Brit-funk popsters the Equals, and “I Feel Good All Over” originally sung by the solid-gold Drifters — plus three instrumentals round out the mix for a satisfying slurp of smooth goodness. The Come Ons don’t pack the punky wallop of a Jon Spencer, although they’ve been favorably compared — this album’s more of a slow seduction. But the mix is strong enough to sneak up on you. A little Nancy Sinatra, a little Blondie, a little Phil Spector ... it all adds up to a whole lotta rock ’n’ soul.
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