Mexi-Rock for the Soul

Turbo Ocho (Emmajava Recordings)
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

By Kevin Gibson

Roger Clyne has been making his own brand of spicy Southwestern rock 'n' roll since the 1990s with his band the Refreshments, which had a minor radio hit with "Banditos" way back when.

Clyne has a new band, the Peacemakers, but the aesthetic is still pretty much the same - a mixture of hard-charging rockers blended with culturally distinctive and sensitive folk-rock songs. One of the things Clyne tends to do best is write quirky little slice-of-life tunes about life in Mexico or in the Southwestern United States (he hails from Arizona).

This collection, Turbo Ocho, is something of a different project. Each year, the Peacemakers play jam-packed shows at a Mexican resort and they used a recent stand to make an audio/video chronicle of a "vivicast" - in short, the band and recording crew set up in a seaside home studio in Rocky Point, Mexico and broadcast daily looks at the recording process to thousands of nearby homes. The end recording was Turbo Ocho, based on the premise of writing and recording eight songs in eight days. (The album actually ended up with 11 tracks.)

What turned up was a collection of Clyne rockers with great hooks, delivered with his signature vocal delivery that sounds like a 1950s crooner with a really dry, scratchy throat (and I mean that in a good way).

The finger-snapping "I Speak Your Language" is a straight-forward love song (by Clyne's standards, at least) with a nice recurring break after the chorus that changes the pace just enough. But the lyric is no more complicated than: "You're my native tongue / You're my daily bread / You're every word I've spoken / Every book I've read."

The album is filled with little couplets and gems that, while not exactly bending rock music as we know it, manage to satisfy. For instance, "State of the Art," an intensely rhythmic, Latin-infused rocker, opens with the lines, "Had I not know the darkness / I could not love the light." Sure, it could almost be a fortune hidden in the cookie after your next Chinese dinner, but it gets the point across.

"I Know You Know" is another straight-ahead rocker, while "Summer Number 39" is a gentle and introspective song about falling in and out of love, as told through the change of the seasons. "Mercy" is a nicely sincere and emotive tune about strength in the face of a difficult time, apparently written for his lead guitarist, Steve Larson, whose mother died while the recording session was going on.

Other highlights here include "Persephone," which offers this never-say-die lyric in classic Clyne style: "Should the mortals dare design / to keep you ever theirs and never mine / Should they, in the name of liberty / Enslave you to their needs / Your ransom has been paid with / Seven pomegranate seeds."

Clyne also busts out his trademark sense of humor in "I'm Captain Suburbia," a wry look at the hypocritical happiness bestowed upon us when we chase and capture the American dream of marriage, mortgage and kids. It's about being too blind to see you're caught in a rut: "I'm tucking in the kids / We're running out of beer / And 'Honey, we need to talk ...' / Are the only words I fear."

All in all, Turbo Ocho may not be the best we've heard from Turbo Ocho, but it stands up well enough to warrant repeated listening. Recommended.

Find out more at www.azpeacemakers.com.