Bass Drum Of Death "Rip This" (Innovative Leisure Records, 2014)
Over the past few years Bass Drum Of Death has transformed from a lo-fi home recording project into what some people consider a rock juggernaut of sorts. Finally having formed a solid writing relationship with drummer Len Clark, the changes to the music are somewhat subtle to be honest, but instantly obvious to anyone who’s been listening to the band for a long time. The hooks are somewhat more laid out and accessible, ala the aptly titled opening track “Electric”. Sounding like an outtake from some early Ty Segal record, it will have you bopping your head and bouncing around from the second the album starts, but that’s probably “why this town’s electric” after all! Screeching distortion and feedback lead into the gritty snarling rhythms of “Left for Dead”, a song wrapped in it’s own neurosis and feeding on the edge-of-your-seat paranoia that it so successfully channels. The massive break in the middle, damaged melodies tumbling over instrumental sections is what really sets it apart for me giving way to the minimalist sounds of “For Blood”, which sounds like it could have been from either of the last two albums. After a few seconds of understated guitar it literally explodes into a wall of fuzz, reinforced by the emphatic understated vocals of Barret crooning and bellowing behind a sea of noise that breaks like waves in the ocean, sound, fuzz, distortion and madness crashing over the top of you, pinning you underneath the crushing force of the waves before raising you to the surface letting you catch your breath just long enough that you’ll survive another submersion! “Everything’s The Same” shows a real growth in Bass Drum Of Death’s composition, arrangement and performance. While Barret was responsible for making all of the sounds on previous records, it seems like having a collaborator that he trusts and can rely upon to help him create and refine his ideas has really allowed his guitar work to step up to the next level. Blistering punkish melodies bleed into the twisted garage rock mentality that seems to fuel the band, while also allowing for a new level of psychedelic tinged tendencies to leak their way into the mix! “Sin Is In 10” clocks in at over four minutes, thirty seconds longer than anything else that precedes it on the album and following a series of two and a half minute songs, and there’s a reason for the difference. Rip This is filled with manic guitar freak-outs, gnarly distortion and fuzz, but “Sin is in 10” takes things to a whole new level. It’s so hard and heavy that if it weren’t for Barret’s vocals over the top it might almost sound out of place. The bridge in the middle of the song is literally just wave after wave of gnarled guitar building up on themselves, creating an impenetrable veil of fuzz and insanity, before spasmodically feeding back into “Black Don’t Glow” which displays more of the refined work that the band has become capable of recently. The vocal melodies on “Black Don’t Glow” are as catchy and perfectly executed as anything in Bass Drum Of Death’s back catalog. The solos are tight and precise, the rhythm section massive and entrancing, and the vocals, oh boy! The vocals, they lay their hooks into you and simply refuse to let go until the track’s done. It’s not often I find myself wishing that a three minute long song was a thirty minute one, but I get the feeling that “Black Don’t Glow” is gonna be a show stealer live! “Burn’s My Eye” showcases more of the frantic garage energy that fueled Barret on his earlier solo adventures into mid-fi madness, melding all the sensibilities of audible pop lyrical sensibilities that he’s capable of while also having the rocky galloping momentum that propels Bass Drum Of Death’s music above the rest. “Lose My Mind” was chosen as a single for a reason. If there’s any other song that could have been on the bands’ first full-length GB City, or even their High School Roaches 7-inch, it’s this song. The face-melting guitars never let up for a second, Barret howls in the background about “losing [his] mind” and while it runs almost four minutes long, there’s not a single moment where the listener gets bored, or even distracted, from the blaring seizure of power that is “Lose My Mind”. The song almost operates like a mantra for the band, perfectly summing up the prevailing attitude that drips from every sweaty pore of Bass Drum of Death with the lyrics, “I just wanna be alone”, “I don’t need to be your friend”, “I’m here to stay, I’m here go away, I’m hear to stay, I’m here I loose my mind”! The only song that kind of took me off guard on the album was perhaps “Better Days”. I don’t know what it is about rockers exploring the limits of the acoustic guitar these days, harkening back to the days of Donovan and the burgeoning moments of Bob Dylan going electric with The Band for the first time, but it’s back in a big way. It’s a great rock song; tight hook, ridiculously catch melody and great lyrics, a love song that never strays into any sappy clichés or anything. But it does almost feel a little out of place on the album, especially as it’s the second to last track, followed only by “Route 69 (Yeah)”. Which while it does retain some of the more slow-paced melody based feelings of “Better Days” “Route 69 (Yeah)” is revved up a bit again and the vocal distortion adds an edgy, nasty bite to the vocals. The solos in “Route 69 (Yeah)” are what really set this song apart from the rest of the album and make it feel like a fitting end to the reality warping trip that is Rip This. I’ve been listening to Bass Drum Of Death since their second release, and while things may be a bit more refined on this release, and there may be a second person involved in the writing process for the first time, anyone who’s enjoyed the early singles or albums is going to be able to get down on this one for sure. There’s even a limited edition triple-gatefold of the LP which includes a hand numbered 7-inch and you know that’s going to sell out quick, so don’t sleep on this and thank me once you’ve spun your first copy to death and have to pick up a second one and remember to Rip This!
Review made by Roman Rathert/2014
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