For two-thirds of the Flat Duo Jets’ 50-minute set it appeared the promise of a major-label debut had managed to corral the untamed spirit of this throwback to Sun 78s and the restless music generated by the South’s great unwashed. Once it was stripped down to just Dexter Romweber on his dinged up electric guitar and Crow on drums — their two hired hands moving into the crowd — North Carolina’s Jets powered their way through a trio of dense instrumentals, thereby reconciling their lo-fi indies roots with major label aspirations. Flat Duo Jets still delivers the goods.
Geffen-distributed Outpost, which has hit with Crystal Method, Whiskeytown and Days of the New in its short three-year history, will release on Oct. 6 the Jets’ “Lucky Eye,” an 18-song collection of pure and stripped-down rockabilly. Onstage, as on record, Romweber, on acoustic guitar, hurriedly strums a wash in line with the early recordings of Elvis Presley, Charlie Feathers and Sonny Burgess; when he sings about hot rods, loneliness and busted romance, he runs a thread to rock lyrics’ most primitive state as well.
Unlike acts that catch on with a retro fad, Flat Duo Jets’ novelty is wrapped in them being the real deal — for those who find the swing music craze cliched or slick, they offer a raw, swinging sound that they’ve hardly changed over the course of nine years. Strictly speaking, this is rock ‘n’ roll at its unseemly best, the true definition of alternative.