Thursday, October 02, 2008

“Project: Picklebilly”

c. 2008 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

Note to Readers – This is a review of the new CD by my friends from Erie, Pennsylvania, The Dirty Pickles. Find them at:

What follows here is a manifesto meant to explore the nature of Rock music as an important part of our cultural identity. Who are we that take to the drums, bass, and electric guitar? What does this spiritual avocation say about us as a group? Read on, and become part of the show that never ends…


Rock ‘n’ Roll is an evergreen art form. It remains constant over a foundation of short-lived, mortal habits. Generations have experienced this unruly phenomenon, through music making, and the cultural after-effects yielded by its ubiquity. Yet the spirit sired by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Bill Haley has not survived through any particular form of melodic discipline or education. Instead, Rock has endured because it is based on one intangible element that remains suspect, dirty, elusive, and impossible to quantify – attitude.

Elvis was humble in person, but exuded the white-hot sweat of pure attitude onstage. He gyrated, skipped, pranced, be-bopped, and howled with the Moondogs. As an entertainment prototype, his effect was unsurpassed by generations of talented successors. He burned as a lightning flash visited only once upon the Earth. Yet… once was enough.

Buddy Holly had attitude in spades. When he burst on to the national scene, Fender Stratocaster in hand, the contrast of his prodigious ability as a songwriter with the seedy underpinnings of his persona helped define the rebellion to come. By joining the divergent characteristics of raucous rural performers and the thumping beat of electric blues, he found a prophet’s place in history. The passage of time did not dim his star. Though Holly himself surrendered to fate, his legend lives on as an inspiration for future days.

The Rolling Stones offered attitude through direct-injection. They spat the stuff into every vinyl groove carved out of the bedrock. The sneering ballet performed by Mick Jagger offered a counterpoint to Keith Richards’ loping, six-string raunch. Heartbeats of little-known heroes continued to resonate magically, in their songs.

Lou Reed mainlined attitude, for a poetic adventure unlike any other. Iggy and the Stooges laid the attitudinal groundwork for ‘Punk Rock’ and its cultural lawlessness amid the chaotic experimentation of Hippie-era excess. Led Zeppelin forged their attitude into a holy paradigm that transcended the ages. Black Sabbath added shades of darkness to the attitude-mix. Ian Hunter combined his ration of attitude with gallows humor. Devo intensified the power of attitude through self-mockery and tonal disintegration. The Ramones distilled their attitude into a blunt trauma intensified by Marshall amplification. Kurt Cobain chewed his attitude to smithereens in the personal train wreck that comprised his life. Metallica used attitude as their fuel and supercharged the result. Motorhead exploded the myths, yet retained their swagger. The White Stripes delivered attitude as a ritual revived from ancient texts.

Taken as a timeline, these adventures comprised the oral history of a musical and social revolution. But then… there came today.

This is a moment decidedly post-modern, after the fire, following the cataclysm, and in the shadows of history. A point in psychic reality where mankind has been moved to lust hopelessly after the authenticity of old-school artists. Where Rock has been neutered, enshrined, and festooned with crusty medallions. A demarcation on the clock face on which oldsters dance arthritically to the rhythm of yesteryear, with polite applause as their compliment.

Oh, attitude… where is thy sting?

Where is the youthful glow of James Brown, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon? The bawdy voices of Janis Joplin, and Big Maybelle. The manic hedonism of Keith Moon and Bon Scott?


The answer to this riddle is uncomplicated, and pure. To rediscover the attitude that sired Rock ‘n’ Roll, one must seek out a band with the attributes of those primal contributors. One that possesses more than loyalty to the ideal. They must wield the fleeting characteristics of youthful exuberance, imagination, and creative abandon.

A group like… Matty B and the Dirty Pickles.

The buzz about ‘Vlassic Rock’ has been intense in Northeastern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and New York City. Much has been written about this energetic trio from Erie and their quest to resuscitate the world’s favorite form of musical expression. But now, the band has embarked on a new project. A digitally-defined dip into the bar-top brine jar. They call it ‘Picklebilly’ – a CD made for cruise-ins and rave-ups, alike. The track listing reads like chapters from a vintage, paperback novel:

1. Miss Mary – A tip of the gherkin to first-wave rockin’ and The Clash
2. My Baby Loves Rock ‘n’ Roll – A barn burner in the classic tradition
3. In A Place – Jump and jive, squawkin’ sax, ya’ll come on back!
4. She’s Gone – Harmonies and Ska inflections, pondering lost love
5. Get Outta Town – Psychotones got us into a pickle, but we are defendin’
6. Night To End Nights – A spooky, back alley chase - on whiskey and bootleather
7. Boom To Ya Baby – Struttin’ in the barnyard, listen and learn!
8. Smoke Rings – A confession given to the ghost of Elvis
9. Tiny Feelin – Heartbeats keep the dream of conquest alive
10. Evil Hymns – I declare: life is a gritty blues played on an old Stella flat top guitar!
11. Head Cold – March of the masses, alive with rhythm
12. The Way It Goes – Writing in the bedroom, a letter to myself
13. Go! Go! Go! – A weekend anthem, fifty thousand Pickle-billies can’t be wrong!
14. Overcome My Love – A stream of consciousness rave-up, given from the heart

Matty B and the boys have all the energy of someone like Gene Vincent, in a rip-
roaring structure of flesh and blood still untouched by roadwear. This is the formula that breathed relevance into Jerry Lee, Dion and Fabian. Their hearts are pure, with body-shells still intuitively able to respond through explosions of raw physical energy.

In simple terms: young enough to digest living with all the vulnerability and
wanderlust of those who went before.


Oldies acts look backward across the continuum, to days of yore. They see the vision with hindsight. But to rediscover authentic Rock ‘n’ Roll, and its attitude, there is only one vantage point for reference – looking forward. Yearning for spare change. Sporting clapped-out equipment and a notebook of songs. Hurdling the rush of thrill-seekers, fans, groupies, freaks, malcontents, and media junkies.

This is Rock at its essence.

This… is Picklebilly!

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