Saturday, October 15, 2011

Death by Steamship on Whoa! Boat Records

This came 12" in from Whoa! Boat Records, a full length from Death By Steamship.

This is going to sound bad, I guess you have to be in the right mindset for this, and it's not just because these guys are from Seattle, but this reminds me so much of the movie Singles, and specifically Citizen Dick...the attitude of these tracks, the kind of 'growing-up-sucks', apathetic, beginning of slacker sound which is too nostalgic, but I get the feeling from these guys of a complete and total sincerity, which comes off as almost hardcore at times. There's no pretention from the songwriting, in the arrangements or in the photo of the band sitting at a coffee table in the middle of a bridge. I miss parts of the country like that. I think this sound has a place in that anti-scene, where a couple of guys can get together and just make music after work.

From track one on the A-Side, "Tangible Things" which is railing against the people bitching about technology, essentially, it isn't really helping to complain and you're old and just sound out of's a sentiment I think I definitely agree with and never would think to commit it to hard rock like this. I especially like "my ears are bleedin', baby / from listening to NPR", man, I've been there. It's all delivered with Jason's raw, hoarse vocals...he's been yelling for years. The band always works on a pretty classic, straight up, clean instrumentation: guitar, bass, drums...recorded analog (the insert says) and mastered by none other than Matt Shane at Masterdisk...crazy. There's something comforting in this sound, taking me back to a grunge '90s sound that's playing around with the edges of straight classic rock...some of the riffs are harder, some of the progressions get prog...the bass is even given a front seat on "Moorage Fees" with some experimental guitar feedback melody and the rest of the band joining in on the chorus.
On "Cuter Girls Ride Bikes", after some street samples, Jason continues to sound a little like Ian Svenonius or Mike Muir from Suicidal Tendencies, just solo bassline and his perpetually blown out vocals here, but what he's singing about is what I'm completely's abstract, and so weirdly specific, probably autobiographical. I think what he's getting at on this track is this girl maybe has his car? She ended up taking his car, or got it in the divorce? Or she's just a crazy stalker he's trying to avoid, chanting the plate number in his head. It's not the kind of stuff that a great lovesong makes, but makes you god damn original that's for sure. This one has a slow rolling sludge rhythm that picks up into double kick metal. KEEP LOOKING AT THE PLATES! The lyric insert is essential.

Side B side starts with the track, "Hipster Holiday", I thought this was going to be another condemnation of williamsburg, but actually, if they're the characters here, they are gong surfing at night somewhere near Portland? Taking the amtrak train, drinking in the dining train? This sounds like the rain, as fast and agressive as they get, there's just an overall sort of surrender to a bigger melancholy. This gets really oppressive on Diablo Y Dinero, a ride cymbal rhythm keeps time for a slow dirge of distortion, that gigantic storm coming in just over the horizon on the cover. The minute of acoustic funk, where they lighten things up only let's you in on the monotony of career and lack of money. It's never an optimistic picture with these guys. The fact that it also sounds timeless and from that slacker '90s era, maybe is as telling as any other indicator about the state of things.

Basically a long EP at 45rpm, it's a completely consistent document from probably the most sincere thing on vinyl from a group of guys hanging out in the middle of a bridge in the woods. Bitching about technology, health insurance, mortgages, not having 401k's...put your feet up on that shitty coffee table, have another beer in a can. It's those kind of stabs at reality that are so fucking can sing about anything and these kind of very particular truths are Death By Steamship.

From Whoa! Boat Records.

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