If you’re not able to tolerate the schtick of The Stray Cats, you won’t find anything of value in what they do. (Incidentally, the same thing could be said of the ten o’clock news.) But one has to give credit where credit is due: lead guitarist and vocalist Brian Setzer was able to dredge up two long-dead musical forms (rockabilly in the ‘80s and swing in the ‘90s) and make them briefly popular again. One could also argue that Setzer was merely mainstreaming underground trends of the time, but hey: no one else made it work so the guy has something to him.
The Stray Cats catalog isn’t devoid of teeth either; songs like “Runaway Boys,” “Built for Speed,” “18 Miles From Memphis” and “Bring It Back Again” all improve on the template of Elvis’ predecessors, and are worthy inclusions on whatever summer road trip mix you’re putting together.
Unfortunately, for readers of this entry, “(She’s) Sexy + 17” may be the limpest track the Cats ever committed to record.
The song hasn’t even started before problems result. First, points off for unnecessary parentheses. Also, what’s with the plus sign as a stand-in for the word “and?” I look at that and I think “Ah, it appears that Ember as found a Salve of Hotness and receives +17 sexy points.”
Then there’s the spoken word intro – problem number two, then exacerbated by Setzer having a conversation, ostensibly with another person who is voiced by…Setzer. So yes, the spoken word intro – already one of the weakest tropes in music – is made even more insufferable by Setzer having a conversation with…himself. Nevermind that the topic at hand – the narrator’s dislike of academia and his mistaken belief that compulsory school attendance for all those under 18 does not apply to him – has little to do with sexiness or the young lady at the root of the song’s title.
In fact, very little in the verses applies to the inherent sexiness of the titular girl (tee hee), leaving said topic for the choruses.
(By the way, let us pretend that this song was recorded in, and is being listened to, in a state/country where a youth is considered an adult at 17 so none of us feels like a creepy guy on MySpace. U.S. readers can pretend they are in New York, while international readers can pretend they are in…New Zealand. Or Northern Ireland if that’s a bit too far a jaunt for you).
Here is a list of topics covered by “She’s Sexy and + 17”
* Misunderstood youth
* The inexpensive cover charges and cheap alcohol found at a local bar, which happens to feature better-than-average live music on a consistent basis
* Possible ADHD symptoms experienced by the narrator when he hears a “rockin’ beat”
* Poor public school curriculum and its inability to cover topics not already addressed in better detail by one’s friends and associates
The topic of sexiness as it relates to the narrator’s girl (who we learn in the first verse is named Marie) is given scant attention. The chorus informs us of her sexiness, her age, her love of rock and roll and her propensity for mildly obscene behavior (though this is never elaborated upon, leaving the listener to imagine that the narrator is a member of the Supreme Court, and knows it when he sees it). Later, we’re informed that Marie is stylish and does not pay close attention to the opinion of others. Admirable traits, to be sure, but again the sexiness is given short shrift as a result.
As for the music, it’s a variant on 12-bar blues with a walking bass line and…oh come on, you’ve heard it by now. I’ve heard tougher-sounding songs come out of an end-of-the-year kindergarten recital.