Friday, November 12, 2010

Gestapo Khazi

Just got this in the mail from Dead Beat, a label I hadn't thought about since the Sunday Drunks recorded for 'em a decade or so ago. It's a six-song, 12-inch EP that plays at 45 rpm -- who'd a thunk it? Got motivated to cop it from a succession of favorable reviews in Razorcake.

Listening to this record takes me back to when I briefly lived in Austin at the ass-end of the '70s. Used to go hear a lot of local punk bands back then, mainly of the collegiate variety, and I remember how a lot of them had surf music as an influence, possibly inspahrd by the B-52s, but in the fullness of time, it also seems to me that to those kids, surf style might have represented an easy way to start playing rock while conveniently avoiding the blues-via-Berry/Stones dead end that was every mainstream band's stock in trade/Achilles heel back then. Plus, original surf (as opposed to the Beach Boys, who were really more of a doowop group whose songwriter used the local milieu for lyrical fodder to get started) with its oceans of reverb and clean-toned guitars playing minor key melodies (thank Beirut-born Dick Dale) had an aura of dark mystery swimming against the tide, so to speak, of sun-and-sand imagery, which fits Gestapo Khazi's somber subject matter like a glove.

These guys are from Long Beach, so that sound is probably imprinted on their DNA, even if they were born around the time those Austin punks were plugging in (or later). John Roller's the singer and besides looking kind of like Mark Growden before he got healthy, he previously played guitar in Geisha Girls, and here, he keeps his voxxx under wraps -- not buried, but low in the mix, so they're just another element in the sound, rather than the dominant one, and you have to work to hear the lyrics (thankfully, there's a lyric sheet included for those like me who have to cheat). He got my attention with "Miss Temptation" -- which was also the title of a Vonnegut short story (anthologized in Welcome to the Monkey House, for you readers out there) -- in the same way as E.T.A.'s Brooks Holliday did by writing a song about Holden Caulfield on their Insult to Injury CD.

Stark Raving Erik's guitar has that dry, brittle surf sound -- does he use Black Diamond strings? Only his guitar tech knows for sure, if'n he has one. It's a refreshing change from the last 30 years of all those guys 'n' gals playing all-downstroke barre chords as if Johnny Ramone (or Steve Jones, or...) was the only other guitar player that ever existed. Midway through "Time Eats Time," he peals off an ascending-descending solo that recalls the one played by his fellow Mosrite user, Fred "Sonic" Smith, at the end of the MC5's "Rocket Reducer No. 62." Because of the relative lightness of the guitar sound, the engine room has to carry it, and indeed, riddim boyzzz Third Reich Meich (drums) and Gestapo Grazi (bass) form an estimable section.

Best song here's "Come One, Come All," a rewrite of the Statue of Liberty's inscription for the decade we live in ("...To the land of fortune. Where the trash smells like fruit. Hate is always assumed..."). A full-length from these guys would be welcome.


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