Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Bipolar Express

Anybody remember the garage rock revival of the '90s and '00s? Bands like the Pretty Things and the Monks that were too weird for the actual '60s came back for their 15 minutes of fame in the decade when "irony" became an aesthetic, along with energetic young upstarts like the Mooney Suzuki (whose self-produced demo CD I now wish I hadn't given to the guy whose amp I used to borrow for gigs) and, closer to home, the Gospel Swingers.

In an age of maximalism, Nuggets was given the deluxe reissue treatment times two, and for a moment, we were awash in a sea of fuzz 'n' Farfisas and maraca-shaking frontmen with Brian Jones-via-Greg Shaw bangs. By the time the Hives and Jet showed up, I was as burnt out on "garage" as I was on CDs by new bands that sounded "like the MC5," and the garage nazis who'd stand against the back wall while Dead Sexy was playing, stroking their chins and muttering "He's using a wah-wah pedal!" -- their purism as much of a blind alley as blues orthodoxy is.

One of my big disappointments from that time was the fact that the Gospel Swingers -- who admittedly showed up a little "late for the trend" -- didn't make a bigger splash. They definitely had the goods, from Quincy Holloway's hulking presence up front to Alex Cuervo's slide bass to Kari Luna's agile keys. Hank Tosh drummed for the Swingers, as he also did for the Deadites and Feast of Snakes, and he was one crisp, stripped-down trap-kicker. He's doing the same thing now for the Bipolar Express, a Dallas band in the grand old style (not to be confused with the identically-named Seattle outfit) that the li'l Stoogeband has gigged with.

By now, there's no trend left to be late for (well, maybe in Austin...); these guys are just playing what they love for laughs and high times. Joe Jarvis fronts the band with a hearty, hale-fellow-well-met manner, Scott Krakowski plays crunchy guitar, Matt Powers locks it in the pocket with Hank, and Scott Boothe fills out the sound with organ washes that'd make Felix Cavaliere proud.

On their demo CD-R, they play a version of "I Don't Need No Doctor" that's more hopped up than Brother Ray's original (which I revere) but less so than Humble Pie's execrable excess (which I loved). Matt's bass is noticeably flat on "Street Where Nobody Lives," but that shouldn't bother you if you dug the early Stones, whose guitars were _always_ out of tune.

They slow down Bob Seger's Nam-vintage antiwar opus "2+2=?" (here listed as "2 Plus 2") for a more apocalyptic edge. "I'm A Loser" isn't the Beatlesong but rather, something that hits like a 12 X 5 outtake, only more swingin'. Probably the best thing here is "Mexican Fuzz," a road song which reminds me of nothing so much as the Flamin' Groovies' "Headin' For the Texas Border," and that's pretty damn fine indeed.


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