Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Innovative Leisure
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk Blues, Lo-Fi
Like the quick and dirty music of his Fat Possum debut, after moving to Innovative Leisure for his sophomore outing, John Barrett continues to filter his influences through a lo-fi version of punky garage rock with Bass Drum of Death. Like looking through dirty lenses at a picture of your favorite artist, he reworks a notable U2 riff for "Bad Reputation," finds refuge in the punchy alt-rock chug of the Pixies on "Way Out," and takes a page from the jangly guitar rakings of Arthur Lee for "Such a Bore," but then speeds up or amplifies the ideas to put them in line with the skuzzy recordings of artists like Wavves and Ty Segall. At a surface level, the album seems like more of the same kind of offerings found on GB City, but with more styles covered and improved songwriting, the album is a slight step up.
At first, John Barrett used to play his shows like a double-concentration version of the White Stripes. While Jack and Meg stripped their band down to the bare essentials of two people, a guitar and a drum kit, Barrett went one further – one man, sending out crashing bar chords whilst stomping out the beat through a bass drum. An album later, and Bass Drum of Death has expanded to a full live band, but Barrett continues to lay down everything on record himself, hopefully still in the insane, cartoonish one-man-band fashion of gigs past.
Bass Drum Of Death’s first album was a promising scramble through a world of loud noise and razor edged distortion. If you liked that one, you’ll like this one too, but if you weren’t a fan to begin with, this certainly won’t change your mind. This eponymously entitled album offers much to be enjoyed, but little that’s new – by the end of the record BDOD’s raw, slouching garage rock begins to feel dangerously like a default setting.
John Barrett – who, for all intents and purposes, is Bass Drum Of Death – has come an awful long way these past couple of years – not that you’d know it. Having toured extensively in support of debut full-length GB City, he’s effectively turned what was a bedroom project in rural Mississippi into an international concern, with the band becoming notorious for riotous garage-rock sets that were high on energy and low on duration. Heightened profile and momentum meant little, though, when it came to recording a follow-up; Bass Drum of Death was produced in as markedly lo-fi a fashion as its predecessor.
There’s a certain distaste to exploiting something impoverished for aesthetic purposes. That goes as much for economic circumstances as it does for works of art. Passes can be granted, for example to the Jesus & Mary Chain for their work on Psychocandy. The sonically destroyed wall-of-feedback sound quality of the recording was arguably a consequence of apathy more than intent.
In the time since Bass Drum of Death played Dinosaur Jr. to MellowHype's Del the Funky Homosapien for a live version of "64", the Odd Future boys have forged a more palpable partnership with hardcore heroes Trash Talk. It's just as well-- Trash Talk are now very much aesthetically linked with Odd Future, which isn't a fate BDoD needed after their 2011 debut GB City.
If a garage band goes by Bass Drum of Death, you might assume that mortality is always somewhat on the brain for these folks. But listen further, and the grime-laced chords kill any preconceived eyerolls you harbor about “garage rock” today. Unlike a number of their contemporaries, Bass Drum of Death doesn’t drown chords in scuzz, but breathes through blues-infused hooks and a punk aesthetic.
Though garage rock never really went away, it’s not hard to feel like we’re living in the midst of a garage rock revival. The genre has expanded substantially in the last few years, the most prominent examples being the sweaty trifecta of records from Ty Segall in 2012, the continued gnarled dominance of Thee Oh Sees and the grunge-punk bliss of Wavves’ Afraid of Heights, released earlier this year. Those three bands in particular rose from the sunny vistas of the West Coast.