Batmobile bracing for impact

BATMOBILE: Brace For Impact

Release year: 2023
Label: Music On CD

Having started out in 1983, Dutch Batmobile are one of the original psychobilly groups, and a steady presence within the scene. The band did take a short hiatus in the late 90’s, but have since then resumed gigging and are a frequent sight on stage. As far as recording activity goes, however, things have slowed down: Brace For Impact is only the second full-length during this millennium.

Even more amazing than their longevity is the fact that Batmobile has never had a line-up change. Going on 40 years, it’s the same three guys in the band. That’s got to be some kind of record, at least within psychobilly.

The band’s inimitable style is a wild, raw and fast take on rockabilly music. Especially on the early albums, Batmobile sound like they’re playing at the very limits of their skills, almost toppling over ever so often. This adds a sense of recklessness, danger and excitement to the music which is virtually unparallelled. The icing on the cake is vocalist-guitarist Jeroen Haamers’ wild vocals – probably not too clean technically – which convey well the inherent wildness of genuine rockabilly.

Of course, Batmobile anno 2023 doesn’t sound the same. That sense of almost crashing to a halt, of playing on the edge of a cliff, is gone. It’s inevitable, right? If the trio wouldn’t have become more proficient with their instruments in 40 years, that would be weird. At the same time, both the instrumentation and Haamers’ vocals sound a bit more middle-aged, a bit less reckless and a bit less wild. But the essential core of Batmobile still remains: rockabilly, but not in some throwback “let’s pretend it’s the 50’s” style. Instead, now as then, Batmobile drag the style kicking and screaming into this day and age, injecting a little bit of grittier rock & roll and maybe even punk attitude into it.

If, contrary to logic and common sense, you’re expecting an album that sounds like Bail Was Set At $6,000,000 (my personal favourite), you’re in for a disappointment. The songs go a bit slower, the sound’s a bit beefier, and overall the instrumentation is a bit more restrained.

However, if you accept that a band will change and grow a bit middle-aged after 40 years, you probably won’t be disappointed. Batmobile still sounds like Batmobile – they haven’t changed that much. Somewhat older, but still instantly recognizable. And, best of all, they’ve penned some genuinely fun tracks for this album. Songs like Fat Boot Girls and Run Forever inject a bit of Motörhead into the mix, whilst Batmobeat sounds like it’s taken a cue or two from Stray Cats. On the other hand, songs like the title track and Ba-Baboon (a conscious throwback to the themes of Bambooland?) are pure Batmobilly.

The sound is a bit fuller, a bit less wonky than on the early albums. But there’s still the omnipresent clickety click of the slap bass, over which the guitars weave their amped up rockabilly riffs. And whilst Haamers’ vocals aren’t as wild as they used to be, age has brought into them a slight snarl which suits the music just fine.

I think one can safely say that Brace For Impact won’t be counted among Batmobile’s most classic albums by posteriority. That’s basically impossible, considering the early albums have earned their classic status by helping shape the bastard genre of psychobilly. And, truthfully, I don’t count it among their best. It’s not the place to start out from. That said, it’s a good album, one any fan can be satisfied with. And so, for us old fans, who’ve been rocking to Batmobile’s beat for decades, this delivers the goods. Good songs, the trademark fun atmosphere that permeates Batmobile albums… what more does one really need?

Visit Batmobile on their official website or Facebook.

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