Friday, October 23, 2015

2015 Week 42: Hoodlums at the End of the World

on the dark side
They don't seem that dangerous.
I find more darkness and danger in less obvious musical places than you'd expect. At some point, if we make a big generalization, we can say rock splits into two different paths of darkness with one path going theatrical - metal, goth - and the other going more gritty - punk, bluesy Stones type shit. (Just go with it for a second, I know it's a huge oversimplification.) Historically, I think we tend to associate things getting really dark in the more theatrical genres with bands like Black Sabbath, Slayer, Sisters of Mercy, etc. Sure, we associate punk with nihilism, but especially with the more pop balanced punk going back to The Ramones, it's rooted in the feel good, early rock n roll vibe. But the thing is, that early rock n roll vibe does have a certain darkness to it that I think gets glossed over a bit in hindsight. It was always rebellious, but the nihilism in punk was always there in a way that it's hard to express. The only thing I can think of to illustrate the point is (wait for it) Eddie and The Cruisers. Yeah, the movie. Bare with me.

Eddie (Michael Pare) in the movie was basically Jim Morrison, and while Jim was way more theatrical and The Doors were working far from the early rock sound that The Cruisers were playing, I think it still rings true. Rock n Roll was born after World War II. Sure, we won, but when the death toll of the Holocaust and the implications of Hiroshima and Nagasaki sunk in, was there ever a more ripe breeding ground for nihilism? Much has been written about this by the beat poets and beyond. But my suggestion is that Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and all the other founding fathers of rock were also addressing these realities whether they knew it or not and it comes through in the music. But at the risk of getting into a long academic thing about this, let's just use this as a setting for what this is really about: Thunderbitch.

Crazy fucking shit going on at this show, I bet.

Thunderbitch is the side project of Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard along with members of Fly Golden Eagle and Clear Plastic Masks. It is, quite simply, unadulterated rock n roll. It's fast, nasty, greasy, a little obnoxious at times and while it's tons of fun, there's ultimately a certain danger and darkness in the heavy reverb and distortion that makes it come across as somewhat apocalyptic. It's grand without trying to be theatrical. It's that second path I talked about taken to it's furthest extreme while remaining rooted in the heart of the music. The album opens with a song about leather jacket and ends with one about a motorcycle and even though those are very simple things, what they symbolize is not giving a fuck. About anything. It's like this band is playing at a dive bar to celebrate the day the sun explodes, but without calling attention to the cosmic shit, because fuck that, just light another joint and let it rip.

So I liked the album so much that it inspired a Spotify playlist where I just built around it with some songs I thought of as I was listening to it that might better explain what I'm talking about. In addition to the full Thunderbitch album, there's some punk, some rockabilly and some bluesy Stones type shit (yes, that's a genre!). Remember to play this in the order it's presented for best results but if you say "fuck you" and shuffle it, you might be getting the point even better than I intended. It's teenage delinquent music for hoodlums at the end of the world.

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