SPEEDBALL BABY come at you all tumble-grind and twang-beat like thunder in a blizzard. Fusing the primordial slurp of rockabilly with a broken-homegrown hybrid of gospel testimony and punk mayhem, the group cuts a swath through the rotting cane fields of the contemporary music scene. Live, they harness hysteria - pounding out a thrown drink conniption fit as exuberant as a St. Vitas dance. Their shows have earned them the loyalty of music lovers and emergency room ghouls on both coasts and between. The notoriously fickle crowds in their home parish of NYC have stuck to SPEEDBALL BABY like feathers on a tarred heretic.
SPEEDBALL BABY were conceived at singer Ron Ward,s wedding reception. Among the assembled guests treated to an impromptu mauling of standards by the well lubricated groom was Madder Rose bass player Matt Verta-Ray. The virus of inspiration - to bring the then Blood Oranges drummer and Wobbly Organist Ward up to the front seat to drive and return Verta-Ray to the guitar chair - became as irresistible as the punch. It even made sense the next day.SPEEDBALL BABY have outlasted the marriage.
SPEEDBALL BABY were perfected with the addition of former Kelly Township mouthpiece Ali Smith onbass and UK transplant Martin Owens on drums. They have festered together in the most fertile music hothouse of all: the New York City apartment. Far from Israel Zingwell's "Melting Pot" New York has functioned more as a microwave for SPEEDBALL BABY - annealing them as individuals and broiling them, inedibly hot on the inside, as a band. SPEEDBALL BABY have a sound. Martin works the traps like a cocktail forge, loading syncopated coal like the port town native he is. He,s a Liverpool sophisticate gleefully hurling drum primers into the fire. Ali curls around the beat with blunt grace, by measures a gamin then a pit boss. Together, they're more a twin barrel riot gun than a rhythm section, laying down a field of rubber bullets piled so high you need snowshoes to get through. Matt skewers cliché, wrestling fractured jabs of twang and slur from a singed encyclopedia of guitar dont's. "If you've ever had sex with a Catholic," he says, "then you'll know that those with the strongest sense of guilt enjoy crossing the line the most." Ron flails, feints, and careens with the teethmarks of Burroghs biting Beefheart. He works the crowd like Lawrence Ferlinghetti hosting a game show or a midwife's blood-spattered husband. His antic destructive pageant has blanched unsuspecting soundmen and cold-cocked (quite literally on occasion) unsuspecting audiences.
SPEEDBALL BABY know the gray virtues of the music. Not the commodity sound of lite beer and Cambridge academics, but the dark blues of the messed up and clueless. A "feeling" yes, but one those truly torn know how to give not just get. Yeah in another place not so long ago a man broke down while he watched a sixteen coach train take his baby away. But this is New York and the J train's left for Brooklyn with your keys, your prescription, and a couple of your teeth. Lord have mercy.