We all know Bowie’s Major Tom’s a junkie. But Little Red’s one is much straighter. Not super-straight (that’s Regurgitator) perhaps a Scientist (oh sh*t, that’s Kim Salmon). Look, what I’m trying to say is that this Major Tom is unlikely to be strung out in heaven (well, unless he decides to change 60s reference points and take a leaf outta The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s book).

Major Tom & The Atoms is former Little Red member, Tom Hartney and a self-described explosive, rhythm and blues orchestra. What initially started as a side-project in 2011 has become a full-time gig. Drummer, Sean Vagg had previously played with Little Red for a few gigs and joins sax, bass, guitar and key players. Tom has said that it’s like Little Red with “two guitars” and that he’d just wanted to do some “wacky shit”.

Whereas Hartney previously counted the Beach Boys as a key reference, these days he’s set his sights on The Doors, Tom Waits and did I mention The Doors? Shake It til You Break It is the band’s debut EP and that little group led by Jim Morrison can be found all over these songs, especially on track three- “Last Dance Of The Lizard King”. This one also boasts lyrics like: “Everybody wants to be like the Lizard King” plus a dark undercurrent and a big choir that is full of gusto and a theatre-like campness.

“The House That Love Built” opens with some distorted and rumbling guitars, groovy sax, a cackle and a Hammond organ. It’s a big, bold and brash number that simultaneously conjures up images of can-can girls and Elvis doing a snake-like dance with his hips. You know the one that drove the girls crazy and it’s all because these guys are instructing us to shake it, all for the house that love built.

It’s no surprise that “Rolling Stone” is one hedonistic, freak-out because it features one driving rhythm and lives for today. And “Mockingbird” is a stomping tribute to The Rolling Stones’ version of “Not Fade Away”. In short it shows that Tom – along with his group of merry rogues – has grown up. It’s almost like he’s come a long way since coca-cola, discovered sex and decided to put this into some dirty blues rock not dissimilar to the album Jim Keays recently did.

On Shake It til You Break It we hear Hartney’s baritone transform from a croon to a sharp cry and a dull roar. Across five tracks the group uses infectious grooves that are all hot leather and pointy boots designed for dancing and tapping. It’s raucous and howling fun where you’d quickly forget chiming guitars and become a slave to thick, filthy sax solos and a rhythm that gets caught somewhere between your hips and thighs. Dripping with passion and for fans of The Black Keys, these songs are sinister, melodic and explosive and will make you dance and scream. Oh yeah!

Originally published on 15 June 2012 at the following website: http://www.thedwarf.com.au/nd/albumreviews/shake_it_til_you_break_it_major_tom_the_atoms

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