Round the Dial
Wednesday 11 September @ 09:41:28
by Tom Hallett
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Rock music has to be naive. And when you’re no longer musically naive, or socially naive, or intellectually naive, and you start to get a bit more worldly-wise, no way can you do that anymore.”
-—Ian Anderson Of Jethro Tull
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”
RTD showcases another phenomenal release from Winder, Georgia’s Backburner Records this week with a quick review of The Roach Brothers’ most recent official effort, Pure And Simple.
Though the siblings (Terry and Jamie Rouch) have been as maniacal as ever over the past year or so in their pursuit to record more music than any other rock and roll band on the planet, this collection is the only one since 1999’s Take Flight that you’ll find available online or at yer local indie record shop. I’ve given youse guys a brief review of this album in the past, but I think it’s particularly important that we update fans on the outfit’s latest batch of songs in light of the fact that they’ll be playing as a trio (the bros have enlisted the talents of the nimble-fingered daughter of a family friend on stand-up bass) this coming week (Tuesday, 9/17 at The Turf Club, and Thursday, 9/19 opening for The Handsome Family, also at The Turf Club) and will be showcasing a bevy of new tunes as well as a “big load” of old faves. Word is they’ll also have on hand several new, fan-only releases, as well as a rare, fan-only best of collection and a slew of collectible new T-shirts, so bring a few extra duckets to these gigs, or yer gonna miss out!
If you’ve never caught these music-lovin’, corn-growin’, tractor-drivin’, amplifyin’ rural outlaws live, this here’s yer chance to say ya saw ‘em when....like, now. Pure And Simple, the band’s most recent contribution to Backburner Records, finds the always-experimental, Kinks / Zappa / Stones / George Jones freaks delving deeper into the Beef-Heart-ian depths of their rural-fried, rock n’ roll influences. Clocking in at nearly 70 minutes, this collection is a logical continuation of the band’s ongoing metamorphosis, yet hardly the place for novices to begin their road to Roachdom. For that, I suggest ya pick up a copy of ‘98’s Big Load album (they’ll probly have a few at the gigs, or check out http://www.backburnerrecords.com) and work your way through Take Flight. Once you’ve watched (with your ears) the full-time farmers/die-hard rockers shoot up musically like the cool, clean, healthy stalks of true American corn they excel at bringing to the world at large, this more mature, more musically adventurous collection of nuggets will sit a bit more easily among old faves like “Working With Bob,” “She’s Done,” and “Laugh Out Loud.” But enough hot air: let’s get on with the review....
The Roach Brothers
Pure And Simple
Terry Rouch—guitar, bass, vocals
Jamie Rouch—guitar, bass, mandolin, autoharp, keyboards, harmonica, drums, vocals
Karl Corts—guitar, vocals
Bob Kimbell—guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals
Produced and recorded at Big As A Barn Studios by Jamie Rouch
Track Listing: Book Of Thoughts / On My Shelf / Sweet Girl / What Am I Gonna Do / Life Ain’t So Strange / Our Home / Something Like This / King Snake Made Some Tea / I Spose / Opening The First Field / We Still Don’t Know / Quick Sand / Brown Eared Girl / Mando Momma / Marginal The Great / Pure And Simple / Next To You / I Like You / Boinkin / Strange Falling Things Two / We Were There / You Know What / On Me / Scrapings / Winter Field / I Said Oophs / Such A Fool / I’m Free
I dig how the boys haphazardly print wacked-out, stream-of-consciousness liner notes (if ya can call ‘em that) over a photo of them in a classic “aw shucks” pose inside the CD’s liner sleeve. Don’t let that country bumpkin facade fool yas—these guys are well-read, well-schooled, and better singers, songwriters, and musicians than just about anybody else famous I can think of from the state of Indiana. And I mean that, man. Check this %@!#$& out: “Good evening, America. We’re broadcasting from the top of the Empire State Building. This is our first broadcast. This is our final broadcast using our new equipment. As you can tell, it’s a vast improvement over our old equipment, which sounded something like this. As I hang here, it’s like I’ve been here before. A sweat bee bothering me. A sweat bee bothering my sweat. Bizzz. Bizzz. Slanted steep shaft. Cold vertical tunnels. Looking up is sideways. True magnetic. Makes me curse with my left arm. Hanging on, around, out the window. Laughter squirts square laughter hole squirt. Yeaaahh, square laughter hole squirt.” And %@!#$&, that little rant comes from track seven, “Something Like This.” What must cuts like “Boinkin,” “On Me,” and “I Said Oophs” sound like?
You ask—you get. Or I ask, you get. Either way, here it is. “Boinkin” is a bizarre, autoharp-augmented freak-out that brings to mind the grooves ya used to get runnin’ a comb or a pen over those tiny metal vents in the floors and walls of your parents house when you were 8 or 9 and spinning in circles in the middle of the living room floor was as high as you ever got—or needed to get. “On Me” eases in with a dark, edgy vibe, Terry singing in a sultry, almost spooky tone—“I don’t like to feel your wrath on me/on me/on me...” “I Said Oophs” kicks off with sitar-ish mandolin, evoking images of dusty, heat-infested Middle Eastern hash shops, then fades as quick as it came in.
Other stand-outs among this massive collection of blues-y riffin’, futuristic flapdoodle, swampy swing, romantic ram-bunk-shush, and all-around musical misbehavin’, include the soul-soothing, string-ringin’ “Book Of Thoughts,” the nostalgic, echo-laden “On My Shelf,” the Dylan-esque summer love ditty, “Sweet Girl,” and the sprightly, upbeat cry for attention that is “What Am I Gonna Do.”
“Life Is Strange” finds the brothers pulling out an’ dustin’ off their blues brooms, and asking the eternal question, “if ya drink too much/will ya feel like crap/well, your life ain’t so strange...” “Our Home” is classic, melancholy Roach Brothers, Terry’s voice warm and pure, as he extolls the virtues of a place—and a tradition—that he honestly loves and respects: “Life outside is callin’/Time to get out/This is home, this is home/Our home...” “Something Like This” (described above) and “Kingsnake Made Some Tea” showcase both the Van Vliet-iness and the Delta Blues sides of the band; one short and weird as %@!#$&, the other short and life-affirming. “I Spose” is a dirty, roadhouse blues, “Opening The First Field” a percussion-laced, near-primal set of instrumental rhythms that the band probably plays live in the corn rows on the first day of planting. %@!#$&, I think my hair grew a half-an-inch just listening to the tune a couple times!
“We Still Don’t Know” finds the rock wending its insidious way back into the group’s ouvre, a nasty, scratchy axe riding hard over pounding skins and lyrics like, “And if you die (you still don’t know) and if you laugh (you still don’t know) and if you have to cry (you still don’t know)” Hey—farmers get pissed off and crank up their amps just like the next guy, Billy Bob. “Brown Eared Girl,” with an absolutely divine guitar solo, is about as romantic as you’ll get in the backwoods of Indiana...”My brown eyed girl/You thought the ditch was your road/Cannonball says, you’ve got to marry my cousin...” “Mondo Momma” is an infectious, pick-it-till-ya-fingers-bleed, speed-freak guitar showdown, and album centerpiece/story-song “Marginal The Great” (courtesy of special guest Bob Kimbell) is as close to Harry Nilsson’s “Me And My Arrow” this generation will ever hear—hands down.
The album’s title track is an urgent, driving mandolin exercise, recalling both mid-period Zeppelin and some strange night spent in an Afhgani keif hut. “Next To You” flies completely to the opposite musical range; a sugary, catchy, homage to love, sweet love. “I Like You” is funkier, deeper, more worldly. “Best wishes, and may all your dreams come true...” moans Rouch, “Hugs an kisses always becomes, an I Like You...” “Strange Falling Things Two” sounds exactly like that, squealing out of your speakers like an angry electrode hellbent on finding a cell to destruct. “We Were There” brings us right back to tasty, love-lorn pickin’ an’ promises: “No matter what starts now/It can’t replace all the fun of the secret desire/And the dreams that you inspire/Now you know how it is, and I don’t really care/Cause in my mind, we were there...”
Winding this bulky batch of brilliance down are “You Know What,” a trippy, vocally-boggling scat-jazz number, “Scrapings” a grating, disturbing aural masterpiece brought to life by, well, electronic scrapings. Should’ve been the soundtrack to our last presidential election, or at least the next David Lynch flick. “Winter Field” paints an audible vision of the endless acres of pristine, snow-covered fields the boys gaze out upon between recording sessions in those temperature-challenged months, and Kimbell’s unearthly, angelic voice blesses it with the promise of an early, healthy spring. “Such A Fool” brings an urban blues feel to the proceedings, perhaps signaling the normally isolated rockers’ inherent need to once in awhile pack up the amps, guitars, drums, and gear and hit those endless highways in search of fellow souls with which to commiserate on the bevy of subjects they address across all three of their Backburner albums. “I’m Free” rings out like the anti-chord at the end of that old Beatles tune, with the siblings matter-of-factly warbling that they’re “free, free, ah, ah, ah, I’m freeee.....”
And free they are. Free to roam the plentiful acres of their Indiana farm, raising their crops, their children, and their houses as they see fit. They’re free to build a recording studio in their barn and record geniuses like Jack Logan and Vic Chesnutt and themselves. They’re free to record sixty-plus minute opuses and release them upon the public—just as you’re free to check ‘em out and find out just why they’re so goddamn happy to be free. And you’re free to head down to the Turf Club this coming Tuesday, 9/17, and check out these from-the-gut, no-bull%@!#$&, doin-it-fer-love-o-music brothers from the heart of America. That’s what real freedom’s all about. Until next time—make yer own damn news!
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’d just like to offer up your own definition of the word “Boinkin,” send replies to: href=TMygunn777@aol.com>TMygunn777@aol.com.