The Datsuns drive all over the Motor City
The Datsuns with The D4
Magic Stick, Detroit, March 29, 2003
Rock and roll’s popular emergence over the last couple of years has manifested itself mostly as a statement of fashion. Groups like the Strokes, Hot Hot Heat, and the Libertines are becoming as well-known for their taste in skinny Diesel pants as they are for tasteful musical influences. Famous anti-establishment Detroit crazymen the MC5 have received critical flak for the sale of their logo to Levi’s. And second-wave rock bands like the Vines and the Ataris have arrived with a distinct undercurrent of irony in their music — their influences are so blatant, it has to be a joke, right?
None of this rhetoric applies to The Datsuns. Given their relatively meteoric rise to fame, it would be easy to argue that the New Zealand quartet was just another “return to rock” band, who decided to ape Heavy Metal Parking Lot instead of In Like Flint as their primary fashion influence. But that argument would likely be drowned out by the fusillade of notes flying from the fingers of the Datsuns’ two Les Paul-wielding guitarists, each of whom performed their numerous solos Saturday night at the Magic Stick without a trace of smirking irony. More in line with British heavy metal and glam like Judas Priest, Slade, Savage, and Accept than any trendy approximation of The Stooges, Television, or The Clash, The Datsuns made the sound system sway from note one of their set.
In fact, lead singer/bassist Dolf’s tuneful yowl is much closer to the screeching of Udo Dirkschneider or Bon Scott than any punk pioneer’s yawp. This was proven with one high voltage rocker after another. Christian and Phil’s guitar riffs slammed into each other and Dolf hacked at his low-slung Fender bass, occasionally foregoing the instrument altogether. That was the interesting thing about The Datsuns’s sound: it’s so impossibly guitar heavy that the rhythm section doesn’t really even matter. Dolf’s bass dropped in and out of the mix, and the Matt’s drumming was economic. Conversely, a band of ironic fools would employ 14 roadies to assemble, tune, and break down a 45-piece drum kit with two kick drums and a gong, if they really wanted to get that “British heavy metal sound.”
But The Datsuns aren’t in the game as a tribute, or playing weedlyweedly solos just to get in Drew Barrymore’s pants. They’re not here to remind the tastemakers how cool Judas Priest was. Of COURSE Judas Priest was cool. But the guys who knew that would likely have beat the shit out of the contingent of dingbats in muscle shirts who probably read about The Datsuns in “Wallpaper” or another goofy magazine and appeared by the back bar Saturday night, pint-sized peroxide drama queens on their arms. These fellows were nowhere to be found by show’s end; it’s difficult to impress a date when your eardrums are bleeding.
Performing their self-titled debut in its entirety, including the manic, barely coherent screed “MF From Hell” (which doesn’t stand for “mall food,” “Marty Fischer,” or “make friends”), The Datsuns seemed to come straight from 1978, the long-lost band of burnouts that supported Slade the night they recorded Slade Alive, Vol.2.
ALSO: The D4’s last performance in Detroit seemed to be steeped in the very irony that The Datsuns do not possess. But opening for their fellow New Zealanders on Saturday, the band was decidedly better. Whether they were tearing into a cover of The Litter’s “Action Woman,” or busting up a Gibson SG — affectionately referred to by vocalist Jimmy Christmas as “The White Lady” — during a particularly searing solo, The D4’s muscular 35-minute set amp’d up all their strengths, and left their weaknesses packed in road cases.
Check out the Glorious Noise review of the Datsuns’ self-titled album. And if you missed it, be sure to read Johnny’s previous write-up of the D4. Oh yeah, make sure you watch Heavy Metal Parking Lot.