Go Go Harlem Baby
Flat Duo Jets

Format: Cassette, CD

By William Brents

Let's just cut to the chase on this one: Go Go Harlem Baby is okay. Not great, not bad — just okay. The Flat Duo Jets don't give a damn about fitting into the current mainstream of music, which, in my opinion, is very commendable and very wise.

I think it's fair to say that the Flat Duo Jets are very much a retrospective pair of musicians who fell head over heels in love with music from a seemingly ancient era. Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent were rock pioneers and, after all these years, their music is being reborn through an unpredictable and fiery young man by the name of Dexter Romweber.

Go Go Harlem Baby consists of six originals, all written by Dexter and ten — count 'em, ten — mostly obscure covers, two of which, "Harlem Nocturne" and "Stalkin'," turn out to be amusing instrumentals. For the most part the album rocks 'n' rolls with Dexter's maniacal howling and searing guitar licks, but there are several nice ballads as well. "You Belong to Me" is arguably the best cut here and, along with "Ask Me How I Live," are definitely two of the most haunting songs I've ever heard. "Apple Blossom Time" shows that Dexter's vocals can be moving and serene and not just the incessant screaming that occasionally belittles his efforts.

The Duo Jets recorded the LP at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis and used producer Jim Dickinson, who has also produced records by Mojo Nixon, Dash Rip Rock and the Replacements. The LP is being distributed by Sky Records, a relatively new label that has managed to sign an established act in Pylon and several up-and-coming groups such as the Dangtrippers and Snatches of Pink (whose drummer, Sara Romweber, is Dex's older sister).

In all honesty, I never felt comfortable listening to the LP straight through. It lacked the ability to seize my attention for more than three or four songs in a row and that's a very generous estimation. Some listeners might suggest that this rockabilly music is somewhat trite and outdated. Maybe. But you must admit, as I do, that Dex and Crow are true and honorable to their roots.