Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bass Drum of Death on Fat Possum records

There's something about the solo vision in music, everything exactly how you want it. Every sound is going to be yours for better or for worse. It's an interesting niche of music creation, there's no collaboration...no jam and not the singer songwriter folk dude, who probably doesn't record at all, sticking to the live performance. The solo artist I'm talking about here has the technology (relatively) to put it all down track by track. It can be the best thing if they really know exactly what they want or it can make everything sound like an overworked mess.
It rarely (if never) works this well in the rock/blues genre. Put Jack and Meg together, both fighting for a kick drum and the guitar and you'll have the
Bass Drum of Death aka Mr. John Barrett.

To maintain this energy on this single is a feat recording all alone. The loose spontaneousness... that King Khan rough.... JSBX (without the screaming) or a hi-fi Doo Rag blues needs to sound right. You can hear the single mindedness, the determination to force this onto wax, but it keeps all the energy of the good fight against all kinds of bullshit. There's nothing too overworked, it's clean and separated but still loose and gritty and electric blues.
Of course there is a bass drum in these tracks, but there would be so much stomping anyway, on the ceiling, the wood floors... he doesn't even necessarily need a real kick drum in some venues I'm sure. It has to start with that rhythm though, stomping on the kick pedal and a tambourine every other beat so the guitar just effortlessly happens, improvised in the places between, all bent strings through a cracked cone amp.

The A - Side 'Stain stick skin': Quite honestly I don't know what this track is exactly about. Seriously, when I try to focus and listen for a storyline or message.....I just go back to the riff...it's all feeling...like a pure blues Jay Reatard, John could let this song continue forever, the pop structure is there essentially, it has a killer opening. He's got to happy with how this single sounds, it's been mastered loud for turning up, it's so crisp that the mess of distortion cuts all clipped and gated.....nice.
This has loose elements of something like Death from Above.(?)...what I'm talking about is that level of performance when you aren't necessarily relying on the instrumentation...the details... it's raw....pounding out a catchy song irregardless of equipment, space, PA's. This vocal could very well be accompanied by just the kick drum....of he could whip out a harmonica and blues the shit up around the campfire. It's dirty, electric, kind of surf, tons of distortion...coming from Mississippi, it just gives it that extra level of authenticity, I'm totally buying it.

The B-side 'The Bandit of Ballad X' breaks out the acoustic and handclaps, to accompany the drum. Far flung echo vocals.... set it all up for picked snarl distortion guitar. All about a new truck... this sound exists in dirty abandoned lots...or a country junkyard...with rusted out metal pickups, all they are good for is target practice. What's left of a crumbling coffee can...you can't even touch it, it's crumbling to orange dust.

But the real question is how 'one man band' is this live? How much of this will be backing tracks or band for his SXSW dates coming up in march? Some Youtube clips show John stomping away behind a kick, tearing it up on guitar and a friend shaking the tamborine...poor bastard...shake that thing man. Maybe it was audience participation? This is going to just get better when played live, at night, and in a smokey dirty room.

This is on Fat Possum records for $4...who just released some Townes Van Zandt vinyl by the way which I've been eyeing... I think it's kind of a unique label with a long term vision that seems like they are interested in sincere artists working with traditional and modern incarnations of blues and country (?)... whatever any of that still means.

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