The Weisstronauts – Featuring Spritely

The Weisstronauts
Featuring Spritely

Lead by so-called “cult producer” Peter Weiss, Boston’s the Weisstronauts shuffle and swing their way through 15 tracks of pure toe-tappin’, heart-on-your-sleeve, good clean fun on the group’s second full-length release, Featuring Spritely. Harkening back to the days when hollow-bodied guitars sporting heavy reverb ruled the dance halls all over America, the Weisstronauts’ manage after only the first few tracks to suggest that they exist somewhere between jazz-conscious rockabilly and Southern California in 1965. Relentlessly bright, groovy guitar licks begin to swarm from the first seconds of the album and never let up, and though they may take on different roles and characteristics from song to song, their underlying personalities never change. The result is a record as coherent and accessible as it is unsurprising, and as well-played as it is unchallenging.
Driven by three guitars, most all the songs individually stand tall. With multiple guitar harmonies and hooks, jingles and leads, they seem to loath laziness and make a point to move quickly from part to part, never dragging and always complementing each other pretty close to perfectly. In the context of the record however, this begins to grow a bit tiresome if listened to at all closely. Picture the three guitar players as really old friends with a gift for the gab having many beers and telling fantastic lies at the local bar. They haven’t seen each other in years, and it’s just like the old days. Though they carry on well together and seem to be having a grand old time, they all kind of talk the same, wear the same shirts, and tell the same jokes that were witty the first time but quickly lose their funny by three or four songs. (The rhythm section sit together at another table entertained but completely uninterested.)
Still, they’re strong, unselfish players, and the band certainly proves their worth. The group is at their best and most creative when they venture away from the kitschy Three Amigos identity they so fervently establish coming out of the gates and let themselves get a little more creative – one could even say a little more original. Certainly their most notably efforts hail from the meat of the record. “Theme From Jack Coke” dresses up in Western attire and moseys on horseback though a lonely Mexican town. “Cha Cha Ho” sounds like something off a mid-50s Hawaiian surf film starring Fabian. And then there’s “Cranky,” by far the most interesting track on the album. It gets going with a Tom Petty / Southern boogie progression interspersed with some kind of barely audible background spoken-word business, then comes up with a riff wearing some serious “Rubber Soul” attire just before it begins to seriously rock complete with some studio trickery and some sonic experimentation thrown in there at the end just for kicks. All in three minutes flat.
It might be suggested that if the Weisstronauts would lose their shtick, divorce their spouses, get a little twisted, and maybe take some drugs, they might lose their preciousness enough to a little more artistically minded and make some really good music. The chops and chemistry are certainly there. But to suggest such a thing kind of implies that they should be an entirely new band. So instead just try and dig it, appreciate them for what they are, and do what you can to get them to play your family reunion. A good time would be had by one and all.