Monday, May 06, 2019

Pat Todd and the Rankoutsiders' "The Past Came Callin'"

You'd have to be out of your mind to start a rock record label in these days and times, when the "music industry" consists of a handful of tech companies trying to "monetize" advertising and the selling of subscriptions to people who are used to not having to pay to consume music (while paying artists next to nothing). But these days, the '80s DIY model has become the way 99% of the touring musos out there get by: the money from the gig gets you to the next gig, and the merch you sell is your payday.

Independent labels are key to this, for they're the ones willing to devote time and treasure to releasing records of limited, niche appeal, and they're generally run by lifers like Berlin-based Hound Gawd! Records honcho Oliver Hausmann, a punk and garage fanatic whose roster reflects his tastes. His current release list includes the first vinyl issue of Think About It, a 2014 EP by bluesy Atlanta garage rocker Rod Hamdallah ; Moronic Pleasures, a new full-length (19 songs on a single LP!) from venerable Virginia Beach punkeroos the Candy Snatchers; and our subject o' the day, The Past Came Callin', the fifth release from former Lazy Cowgirls frontman Pat Todd and the Rankoutsiders.

Pat Todd's the same kind of lifer as Hausmann: an '80s LA punker (out of Indiana) who operates on the same stretch of American highway once traveled by Hank Williams and Chuck Berry (and later, by the Stones and the Clash). Like those two icons, he's a storyteller, and a damn prolific one to boot. After fronting the Cowgirls for 25 years, he broke the seal on his new outfit, the Rankoutsiders, with a 28-song debut, The Outskirts of Your Heart, in 2006 (reissued on double vinyl by Hound Gawd! in 2016, the same year the label released Todd's last outing, Blood & Treasure).

Over time, he's amassed quite a backlog of material, and part of the impetus behind The Past Came Callin' was to document some songs that waited years for their turn to be heard -- 15 in the case of "If Only I Could Fly Backwards In Time" (which kicks in the door with raucous energy), 20 in the case of "Yeah, Ya Had A Bad Night" (replete with sonic allusions to "Time Is Tight" and "Safe European Home" that sound to these feedback-scorched ears like a Clash homage). More recently, "Goin' Nowhere," anchored by a four-on-the-floor beat and pedal tone bass that recall AC/DC, was originally intended for inclusion on 2013's 14th and Nowhere.

Produced, mixed, and mastered by simpatico ex-Sparks guitarist Earle Mankey -- who first worked with Todd on the Lazy Cowgirls' magnum opus Ragged Soul, wa-a-ay back in 1995 -- The Past Came Callin' captures all the Rankoutsiders' signature strengths, from Todd's snarling vocals and first-time (on record) harmonica, to Nick Alexander and Kevin Keller's blazing twin-guitar attack, to bassist Steven Vigh and drummer Walter Phelan's propulsive kick. Besides the aforementioned gems, there's a Keef-like vocal turn for Kevin Keller ("The Ring, The Bottle & The Gun"), a William Bell cover ("Any Other Way") that could have been written to order for Todd and reveals the singer's affinity for R&B, and a remake of Cowgirls chestnut "Somewhere Down the Line" that's less twangy, more rockin' than the 'riginal.

"Just Between You and Me" closes the album on a somber acoustic note. But when Todd sings "Failure's mostly what I see / And a lot of talk we hide behind / And a trail we ain't never gonna find," his whole career belies the defeated tone. Pat Todd keeps pounding the boards because he doesn't know how to quit. How fortunate are we.


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