Italian punk ‘n’ roll outfit Beatersband began cranking out good time sounds in 2018. Although they spent a couple of their early years hampered by a pandemic lockdown in terms of reaching live audiences, they more than made up for that with a prolific output. By the end of 2022, their comprises three albums, several singles and a brilliant cassette (‘Un Tuffo Nel Passatto’) which supplies the ultimate crash course in their work to date.
Formed with a clear goal of adding a punky twist to several 50s and 60s American classics, The Beatersband’s sound really comes into its own on this third disc, released in November 2022. They’ve taken a bunch of songs familiar to everyone – including a couple that likely came their way via the Ramones’ previous love for them – and served them up with a great enthusiasm and a sound that’s made even better with a huge vocal.
At the top of the pile, their version of Elvis Presley’s ‘Burning Love’ punches through with a real energy, regardless of an obvious budgetary restraint. Bassist Leonardo takes the core riff and transposes it to a world where it could easily have been spawned from a 90s punk band, and that’s enough alone to give this an edge. The rest of the arrangement settles into some solid pop rock where a jangling guitar sits beneath a world of understated harmonies and an indie-ish feel, leaving vocalist Donatella to steer the musical ship. She clings on to Presley’s great melody but also makes it fly with a little extra punk ‘n’ roll confidence, making it clear that she very at ease with this number. The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’ one-ups the Ramones famous take on the track by cranking up the distortion threefold, which creates a really dirty sound during the intro when a noisy guitar part collides with the familiar drum riff. Moving into the meat of the track, The Beatersband’s punk ‘n’ roll sound comes into its own when Leonardo drops into a really fat bass groove which carries the bulk of the track in great style. A strong melody comes through a well arranged backing vocal, showcasing the band’s push and pull between sweetness and grit, which means they’re able to make this track their own without any drastic reworking.
Despite showing off more of that superb bass sound, the Del Shannon classic ‘Runaway’ fares less well due to being in the wrong key for Donatella – she drops her voice accordingly and ends up adopting a weird, uncomfortable croon – but, as before, the arrangement itself has some solid moments. The heavy drum sound and clanging guitars do a great job in adding a garage rock edge to the familiar tune; an understated guitar solo adds a surf rock tone that’s particularly thoughtful, and more harmonies add to the musical stew in a way that just works. As it transpires, the lead vocal, too, evens out in time… By the chorus, a slightly higher tone brings out more of the expected confidence. It’s unlikely to ever become your favourite Beatersband recording, but it has a couple of moments that shine.
In an unexpected twist, a cover of Conway Twitty’s ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ is pure schmaltz. Aside from adding a heavy drum and more of a garage rock aesthetic, very little is changed from the original. That said, it’s one of those songs where the vocal was always the main feature, and such is the case here. From the very first notes, Donatella reaches inside herself for a full-hearted performance. She starts strongly, and eventually rises with ease to reach the big chorus crescendo, showing off her full range. It’s not the kind of voice you’d necessarily expect to find fronting a punky band, but it really works. Love or hate the song, it’s hard to deny that this is one of her career defining performances. She also brings an almost sultry edge to The Troggs’ ‘Wild Thing’ when her voice is bathed in echo, and again, that becomes the highlight of an over familiar romp. Not to take anything away from her brilliantly fuzzy guitar work here, or a straight homage to the original cut’s gloriously out of tune recorder solo, but musically, ‘Wild Thing’ peaked with Hendrix in the late 60s.
Some hefty rock ‘n’ roll chops allow for another chunky bass part on ‘C’mon Everybody’ when a straight and energetic take captures the purity of the Beaters’ punk ‘n’ roll stance. It’s easy to imagine a thousand punk oriented acts cranking this out as part of a live set, but these guys bring a real spirit to a very live sounding take. Likewise, there’s a feeling of frivolity cutting through ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’. Already covered brilliantly by The Tourists in the late 70s, and Twiggy Ramirez and 60s model Twiggy in the mid 90s, this seems to be one of those numbers that’s practically indestructible. And it suits The Beatersband brilliantly, allowing Donatella to tap into a really positive sounding performance where her accented voice darts happily throughout the very uplifting 60s pop tune. Rounding out this short collection of covers, Jackie DeShannon’s ‘When You Walk In The Room’ (a hit for The Searchers in 1964 and Paul Carrack in 1987) presents something a little smoother, but without losing too much of Leonardo’s signature bass punch. The band give the number the full power pop treatment where ringing guitars intercut the grumbling rhythm, and the very 60s groove sounds like the perfect vehicle for the Beaters’ often retro style. With a couple of the vocals multitracked, and the riffs tapping into something a little janglier than usual, it’s the arguably most accessible Beatersband cover to date, even with the main riff tackled in a semi-sloppy garage rock mode.
It may be low budget fun, but ‘Vol. Tre’ often adds something really optimistic to the Beatersband legacy. A couple of the song choices here are a bit uninspired – it’s unlikely anyone would be excited at the prospect of hearing yet another band hammering out ‘Wild Thing’, no matter how spirited the performance, and ‘Runaway’ doesn’t entirely work – but that’s a minor point when it’s clear that, given the right material, Donatella has a superb voice. With the rest of the band more than enjoying the opportunity to cut loose and with a constantly terrific bass sound running through the recording, there’s more than enough here to entertain.