The Senders are a hidden gem among the ruins of the early New York scene and a misunderstood gem, at that. As beloved stalwarts of CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, these guys have shared bills with The Heartbreakers, The Cramps, and Blondie, to name a few. The Senders have been referred to as “…the world’s greatest bar band…” and “…the Big Apple’s answer to Dr. Feelgood…” Sure, The Senders do share Dr. Feelgood’s love of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and they, too, have never met a blues song they didn’t cover. I just can’t help but feel that those expressing these opinions have never heard Retour A L’Envoyeur. The Senders’ raucous mix of garage rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues is as New York Punk as anything from The Heartbreakers and Retour A L’Envoyeur easily offers a romantic foil to L.A.M.F.
Released in 1981 as their first full-length studio LP for Skydog records, Retour A L’Envoyeur pulls listeners into the fun, sexy, dangerous world of The Senders. We run wild through the Lower East Side, stay out all night, avoid work at all costs, love ‘em, lose ‘em, and love ‘em some more. There are several standouts on this record, but in the interest of brevity, I’ve narrowed it down to five.
We hit the ground running with Devil Shooting Dice and its compelling chase of Marc “Moe” Bourset’s drums and Steve Shevlin’s bass, with Billy “Wild Bill” Thompson’s power chord bursts and gorgeous slide work leading the way. We feel the urgency in Philippe Marcade’s voice as he grabs us, gives a place to stay and warns us of the violence and temptation lurking just outside.
Here Comes My Airplane is a soulful and surf-tinged ballad that’s alternately joyful and somber as Philippe laments a love gone bad but also urges us to sing along with his signature growl over a finger-snapping beat.
I’m a Stranger Here, Myself is a jumpin’ Bo Diddley-style number celebrating the thrill of an anonymous night out on the prowl with some menacing slide and sax. Don’t Make Me Mad is pure R&B goodness with a stompin’ beat and a killer sax solo from “Exploding” Danny Ray that would make Sam and Dave proud.
You Can’t Stay Away is the slow-dance number to end all slow-dance numbers with its raw emotional opening and taut insistent rhythm building up to Philippe’s impassioned pleas; “…I’m a lonely guy and I don’t know what to do, every time I think about you, and every time I realize that this is true, I just couldn’t live without you…”
I think my only kibitz with this album would be the boogie number “For Me, Tonight” as it sounds a little rushed. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics and all the right ingredients are here; it just lacks that punch on the intro and feels like a missed opportunity. Overall, I would rate this album an 8.5 out of 10 because I feel that the Little Walter covers are unnecessary and drag down the overall energy of the album, a bit. Less is more.
Retour A L’Envoyeur is currently out of print, however, all of the songs from this record (and a few other notables such as Don’t Fuck With Me) are currently available for download on iTunes and Amazon Music as part of the album, Back to Sender Revisited. Now, for all you vinyl enthusiasts, a few existing copies of Retour A L’Envoyeur can be found on eBay and elsewhere online. I think this album is more than deserving of a reissue as it’s a great introduction to The Senders and also gives us more of that New York sound.