Local Tracks on the Web
By David Pence
This song is made of three sections: one woozy and muffled, another lumbering and primitive, and another that’s agile, fast, and tart. The band binds the parts with heavy licks and clotted guitar chords; a big, swinging bottom end; and Mona Nash’s double-tracked (and deliciously out-of-phase) vocals. Nash’s voice combines muscle and coyness in a way that recalls the challenging sexiness of Kim Deal and Joan Jett. Listen for unexpected lyrical flourishes (“I’ll never cook you any Southern-fried iguana!”) and for the track’s high point, when the trio rears back and hurtles into a chorus that pits sinewy instruments and the singer’s taunting tone against her puzzling insistence that she’s “a farmer” and “a dreamer.”
Frank Houston and the Fear Agents: “Doctor Cleancut”
A moody, murky take on youthful dissatisfaction, “Doctor Cleancut” is an appealing piece of junkpop. Ryan Moore pulls himself together enough to deliver a developed and somewhat conventional song featuring passages of pleasing melody (despite the disaffected delivery) and a clear structure. During verses, Moore’s rhythm guitar and vocals and Mike Cunnane’s lead guitar and drums roll along. Then the high-hat and snare begin high-stepping in the slightly accelerated, brief parade of the chorus. Moore’s vocal is best when he sheds the Malkmus skin and plays tag with the beat in his own way. Instead of taking the listener to a climax, the instrumental verse holds back and the final chorus cannot entirely release the song’s accumulated tension.
You don’t have much warning – four clinks of cowbell – before you get blasted by the force and speed of something resembling a missile or a rushing bullet train: the power is thrilling, the precision stunning. The guitar lick that fuels this demo track is surprisingly restrained, both tuneful and propulsive, spinning finally into verse lines that stretch into the distance. Tristan Gallagher’s shredder-shout vocals are mixed back, so it’s possible to hear each one of the zillion taps of drumstick on ride cymbal, and the way the bass, drums and guitars whiz along like interlocking pieces of a streamlined machine. You’ll find sublime moments when Man-Witch’s virtuosity and controlled violence create a simultaneous sense of anxiety and triumph.
This is a smart, stylish track that exults in its contradictory simplicity and sophistication. With relentless rhythms led by bass drum, tuba and organ, the song is built for pop, for dance, then mixed for maximum clarity and bounce using a crisp arrangement that includes tambourine, lead and backing vocals by both genders, and echo. The playing is urgent, and the singing is campy and super-fun (closer to the girls and guy from Athens, Ga., than to the grrls of Le Tigre). The female vocal is easy to love, but I find the boy verse especially inspired – a crazed, sloppy helping of vocalized desire. This recording nails a refreshing target: the link between smile and shove, between fun and the pressing urge to grind and rub. Long live brevity!
Solid. It starts with an alarum, a flipping of the bird via guitar lick, but before you’ve had time to savor the Hendrix allusion, we’re pumping and sliding through the first verse. Jordan Kratz’s vocals are appealingly foggy and brash – though his words trend toward radical political boilerplate – and I like how he conveys disgust and outrage without shrieking. I keep returning to this track for its compactness and tight swing, for the straightforward riffage, for the brick-house song structure, for the failsafe call-and-response action that drives verses as well as choruses, and for the performed-punk moment that is the second time Kratz shouts the invocation, “One, two, three, four!”
David Pence is the host of Radio Junk Drawer, heard Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. on community radio station WMPG (90.9 and 104.1 FM; wmpg.org).