Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: Innovative Leisure
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk Blues, Lo-Fi
Bass Drum of Death's third full-length album, 2014's Rip This, is an unrelenting steamroller of fuzz-laden, deliriously boneheaded garage rock. Once again centered on the duo of John Barrett and Len Clark and featuring production from Jacob Portrait, Rip This is a shoot-from-the-hip collection of slacker anthems designed to do nothing more than kick ass and ruin your car's speakers. Ploddingly played, sneeringly delivered, and utterly lacking in musical ambition beyond four chords and an hearty "F@#$ You," Rip This is pretty much exactly what you want out of a punk-influenced hard rock album.
John Barrett’s third full-length as Bass Drum Of Death is a garage-rock juggernaut bursting with fuzzed-out riffs. The power chord swagger of ‘Electric’ and the pace of ‘Everything’s The Same’ are emblematic of much of the album, positioning the Mississippi native in a rowdy middle ground between Ty Segall’s psych-punk and Fu Manchu’s stoner rock. When the energy runs out, though, the record stumbles – two-minute acoustic number ‘Better Days’ feels like an afterthought, while ‘Route 69 (Yeah)’ is an unengaging closer that lacks the vigour of its obvious Stooges influence.
Mississippian John Barrett has an approach to music that’s as studied as it is snotty: once he’s cleaned the scum off rock’s most petulant hoodlums – the Cramps, the Stooges – he dresses them with embittered, adolescent rallies against the masses, adding his own stamp on the resulting racket via his bratty drawl: “It always seems hollow, all those things you do,” he sneers in the heavy thump of Sin is in 10. Elsewhere, there’s giant, latterday rock akin to Royal Blood (a reference likely to make him shudder) but its highlight comes in the form of the cleverly distorted, Sonic Youth-inspired Lose My Mind – Barrett’s most grown-up effort yet. Overall, BDoD’s fifth album tends to rehash the typical traits of rebellious guitar music, and while Barrett may not join the ranks of the titans he mimics, there’s no harm in letting another punk delinquent rattle on amid the din of the dull.
It’s a ballsy move to give your band a name as epic as Bass Drum of Death, but Mississippi’s John Barrett went for it. If you’re going to give yourself that kind of moniker, you better release music that’s going to kick the goddamn door in and mess the place up. The previous two releases — 2011’s GB City and 2013’s self-titled — were cram-packed with Ty Segall-esque, fuzzy, grinding hooks and Barrett’s snarling screams, but only left the place moderately fucked up.
A name like Bass Drum Of Death sure as hell does not evoke an American Deep South garage band, but hey, who’s complaining? It raises heads, it is difficult to forget, and it is Google-searchable. Rock on. Straight from Mississippi, Bass Drum Of Death is primarily the project of one John Barrett, who began the group as a solo project and later added members Len Clark and Josh Hunter.
I first really became aware of Bass Drum of Death via Grand Theft Auto V, where they feature on my favourite radio station from the game, Vinewood Boulevard Radio, alongside the likes Hot Snakes, Wavves, Moon Duo and Thee Oh Sees. Pretty illustrious company, eh? Well, after listening to Rip This I had to go back and listen to ‘Crawling After You’ to make sure it wasn’t a hidden turd in the station’s otherwise great programming. It isn’t.
Live, Bass Drum Of Death do the two-man trash-blues garage thing, but their records have always crunched out sharp lil’ moves to make them rise to or above the morass of trash-blues garage bands. It’s essentially been a project of leader John Barrett, who played all the instruments on the early records and could tweak out extra guitars or vocals. Their ripping sound eventually set them firmly between the r’n’r poles of early-aughts neo-garage and early 2010s reverby trash rock.