Gruff kafoodles

THE GRUFFS: Cosmic Kafoodle

Release year: 2022
Label: Western Star Records

My first contact with British neo/psychobilly act The Gruffs was their 2020 10″ release In Limbo Land. Quite honestly, my jaw dropped to the floor when I first heard it. It was some of the best psychobilly in the classic British style I’d heard in ages – in some respects very retro, but tastefully so, with a lot more than just bland nostalgia going for it.

It played no small role in a renewed interest in the genre. For some years, my interest had sagged a bit due to an abundance of tedious releases and cheap tricks. The Gruffs maybe didn’t bring a whole lot of new to the table with In Limbo Land, but they did the “same old” in a truly kickass fashion.

So, naturally, I approached Cosmic Kafoodle, the follow-up release and second full-length of the band with no small expectations. I did know to expect something a bit different, having interviewed the band for rockin’ magazine Big Beat: main man Nick Plant explained that line-up changes had somewhat affected the band’s sound.

And indeed, a lot has changed. Where In Limbo Land fit quite snugly in there with The Sharks, Frenzy, Long Tall Texans and other bands active in the late 80’s and the 90’s, Cosmic Kafoodle takes a definite left turn. Incorporating elements of country, swing and even a bit of 60’s pop melodic sensibilities here and there, this is still neo/psychobilly, but with definite twists.

The sound is pleasantly airy: the slap bass has plenty of room to provide backbone, the percussion has a sort of big band jazz quality to it from time to time, and the guitars have a very rootsy feel with little to no distortion, playing riffs with more than a whiff of 50’s country, early rockabilly and swingin’ electric blues. It sounds very natural, in the nude so to speak.

Now, I’ll readily admit that even after a dozen spins, Cosmic Kafoodle hasn’t managed to rise to the level of In Limbo Land. But that notwithstanding, it is a very nice album. True, few of the songs rise up to be particularly memorable, but there’s this over-arching delightfully fun, quirkily humorous feel to the album. It feels like it was a laugh to make – producer and all-around legendary figure Alan Wilson has masterfully captured that on tape.

In terms of psychobilly, you really have to dig the old school sound to be able to get where The Gruffs are coming from. But, if you narrowly limit yourself to that and refuse to widen your horizons to a wider spectrum of rootsy music, Cosmic Kafoodle will elude you. It’s a bit of country, a bit of rural rockabilly, a bit of crude city blues swing all packaged in a classic neo/psychobilly guise. And as such, it’s really very fun.

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