Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Album Review: Bass Drum of Death - GB City

As described by its label, Fat Possom, GB City sounds like "the soundtrack playing in your head when you're fucked up and walking home in the middle of the night".  Reminiscent of the under appreciated early 60s "frat rock" scene of the Pacific Northwest,  this is an absolutely vintage, blown-out garage rock record dripping with surfy delivery and subconscious hints of twisted psychedelia.  The album was written and recorded entirely by singer/guitarist John Barrett in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, using minimal equipment and even less bullshit.  

The album is especially strong during its first half.  Nerve Jamming opens with pounding, lightening-fast drums and jagged angular power chords, wasting little time before cracking open into a headbanging scream-along chorus about wasting time (ironically) and blowing minds.  The pace doesn't let up at all as BDoD thrashes their way through the title track and into highlight third track Get Found.  The tune is driven by a grinding, muscular, guitar riff as the only constant as rest of the band jolts to brief stops for the sake of jumping back in and exploding into cathartic ferocity during the final minute.  Velvet Itch rounds things off with a comparatively slower pace as the guitar and drums bang along in unison to create a groovy, earth-shaking rumble while John screeches about talking to Elvis in his sleep.

Over the course of the second side of the album things slow down somewhat, literally in the case of standout track Spare Room.  It starts with the familiar Phil Spector drumbeat, slowed to the point of desperation by a sea of guitar grime and ominously trippy five-note bassline.  The energy returns with Young Pros, a bouncy, upbeat song that in some screwy alternate universe could have been huge in the 60s. Sunny guitar hooks and serenading verses are bracketed by a sky-opening chorus featuring doo-wop backing vocals and gleeful drum fills behind John's warped croon.

While the greatest appeal of this album undoubtedly lies in its raw, primitive musicianship and garagey recklessness, the vocals do more than their part to complete the package.  John bashes his way through the songs with a droning howl, dripping with reverb and overdriven from sheer volume.  He goes on about religious girls, demonic possession, drugs, depression, paranoia, and destruction while punctuating his phrasing with absolutely brilliant moments where he erupts into screeching cracks and yelps of excitement that sound like Little Richard on acid.

I had the opportunity to see Bass Drum of Death at the 7th St Entry shortly after this album dropped, and they did not disappoint.  John lead the charge behind an untamed mop of hair obscuring his entire face, which he couldn't be arsed to brush aside at any point.  It was oddly fitting though as the faceless ball of hair spat songs in much to passionate of a way to be entirely human.  They closed the show with a manic rendition of Nirvana's Territorial Pissings, and just about left the building and everyone inside in ashes.  While nothing could convey the chaos of this band in a live setting, the album does an admirable job of replicating the vibe.

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