Tight Turbopop

Willie Wisely
Turbosherbet (October Records)

By Tim Roberts

At one of November's SwingaBilly Ball series at the Phoenix Hill Tavern, Willie Wisely and his band sandwiched between two rockabilly acts dealt with one of his many hecklers that night by looking at him directly and saying, "Now you're gonna rock 'n roll, a*hole." They blasted into "Ready to Wear" from last year's She. The hecklers weren't impressed, but the retort was what Willie's fans would expect: swagger, sass and fun.

While he and his band may have seemed misplaced in an all-rockabilly show (one of the reasons the series was billed as the SwingaBilly Ball), there is no doubt Minneapolis' Willie Wisely can put on a fun show. His music is filled with hooks that come right out of pop history bubblegum, British Invasion, glam rock. So for those who liked She, Wisely leaps back at us with Turbosherbet, 12 tracks of pop pleasure and saucy lyrics. Prudes (and hardcore rockabillies) beware.

Wisely uses synthesizers, drum tracks, samplings, acoustic and electric guitars and slick tricks like splitting channels on background vocals. The mix of sound, instrumentation (virtually all performed by Willie Wisely and his producer John Strawberry Fields), and clean, tight production make Turbosherbet a technically fine recording. But it is Wisely's music that makes it worth the attention.

And like She, the songs are mostly about relationships with women. He jumps at us with the first track, "She Said Yeah," about a guy who's happy that he and a woman are going to make love, but he pesters her about when it will happen. "Two Charcoal Hearts" adds a funky fuzz-bass to a song about a long-distance relationship. Midway through the recording, he slows down with "My Complicated Friend," something to soothe those who thrive on obsession and overkill in anything they undertake. He cranks up with the next tunes, "So Turned On," and "By Gones," which loosely borrows the bass line from Queen & David Bowie's "Under Pressure," and even contains a Queen-like guitar solo and synth-processed vocals.

In this final track, Willie revisits one of his best tracks from She, "Sleeping With Girls." The original was done in a sexy cha-cha. This one is done in straightforward, punchy rock. Either version works.

With the music, slick production, attitude, and package in day-glo sherbet colors, Willie Wisely's Turbosherbet is like the dessert: Sweet and cool.