I liked the guitar and drums-pioneering Flat Duo Jets and enjoyed Dex Romweber Duo's three previous albums, but I think I've fallen in love with the new Images 13.
Okay, the cover looks a bit amateurish and is kind of ugly. But beauty is only skin deep and it's the music, not the packaging, that wrapped me in its arms.
Romweber has made a name for himself over the years as a man who knows how to cunningly combine Americana, surf, blues, rockabilly, pop, punk, country and garage rock elements and envelope them all in eerie darkness. He doesn't veer far from the formula here, but, with older sister (and former Let's Active member) Sara providing focused percussive support on the snare drum, he's done it better than he ever has before. And that's saying something for a guitarist/singer who's been a professional musician for more than 25 years.
The album opens with lead single "Roll On," a dark and smouldering blues rocker infused with surf licks that sets the tone for the next 11 songs. "Long Time Coming" offers a bluesy shuffle and you'll hear some '60s pop in “Baby I Know What It’s Like to be Alone” before coming to a happy surprise: a cover of The Who's "So Sad About Us," complete with jangly guitar and an upbeat sound that belies the title and lyrics. Southern Culture on the Skids' Mary Huff contributes vocals to the track, adding to a SCOTS connection established by Images 13 being recorded at Rick Miller's Kudzu Ranch studio in North Carolina.
The foreboding "Prelude in G Minor" is the album's first instrumental, followed directly by "Blackout!," which alternates crashing drums with a "Peter Gunn Theme" vibe but showcases guitar mastery throughout. "Blue Surf" is a frantic surf rocker and the final instrumental is album closer "Weird (Aurora Borealis)," a more experimental number featuring Melissa Swingle (Trailer Bride, The Moaners) on the saw.
The record is rounded out by: "I Don't Want to Listen," where Dex displays some deep, '50s doo-wop crooning; the acoustic but still edgy "Beyond the Moonlight;" the '60s pop-influenced "We'll Be Together Again," which was written by Eddie Cochran's girlfriend Sharon Sheeley after he died in a car accident; and the country-ish "One Sided Love Affair."
Jack White and Exene Cervenka have professed their admiration for Romweber. After hearing Images 13, you probably will, too. This is bound to remain one of my favourite 2014 albums when the end of the year rolls around.