DERDANGDERDANG - Archie Bronson Outfit (Domino)
Garage-blues? Black-hearted folk rock? Dunno what it is but I like it. A lot. Even if it did get lots of stars from the NME. And they have beards.
English three-piece Archie Bronson Outfit pick up where Johnathan Richman left off after his first Modern Lovers album. Except Johnathan while went off to play in the kindergarten, Archie Bronson Outfit sound like they got six years with a non-parole period of four. The Bronsons peddle a perverse mix of shadowy garage blues and skeletal post-punk angst that actually rocks AND rolls, with a sense of menace in just about every song. Did I mention it was recorded in Nashville?
A rumbling undertow sweeps each and every song along on a dark course. These boys whip up a bit of racket for a trio and at times it's probably best not to listen with any sharp objects in easy reach. On "Kink", guitarist Sam Windett sings and half-yodels like a brutalised David Byrne after the Psycho Killer actually tracked the guy down and wrung his wimpy neck. "Derdangderdang" is every bit as highly-strung as anything Talking Heads did and a whole lot darker. Look under "tremulous" in the dictionary.
"Cherry Lips" would be a bona fide pop song in a fair world with stronger emotions than a row of Australian Idol finalists. Is the fact her cherry lips are swollen ("Your FAT cherry lips") coincidence or cause for an Apprehended Violence Order? "Dead Funny" has undertones that are more carnal, while "Modern Lovers" goes all Suicide on us (as in the seminal NYC synth duo, not the act of self harm). Archie Bronson knows the value of repetitive drone as well as leaving spaces.
Aurally, things do lighten a little along the way, thanks to some cool female backing vocals on revenge tale "Dart For My Sweetheart" and "Cuckoo" plus occasional horns, but let's face it, you're not going to play "Derdangderdang" to your elderly granny after the oncologist comes back with the biopsy results and says he's not going to cancel his golf holiday. You might consider giving it a spin for an English cricket fan after their recent 5-0 loss to Australia, but that would be a cruel and unusual punishment (and you'd have to find an English cricket fan first.)
There's a lyric sheet to aid the hard of hearing. Drummer Arp Cleveland is the man who writes the words so address all correspondence to him.
Proceedings close on a light note with the acoustic "Harp For My Sweetheart" which recalls one of the Velvets' lighter moods. There's there the rub with the Archie Bronson Outfit - they're just as capable as some of their eminent predecessors as leavening the recipe without descending into banality.
Touring Australia in '07 and I reckon they'll whip up a (dark) storm. – The Barman
It’s one of the quirks of contemporary musical history that it took a bunch of scruffy, pimply English teenagers – deprived of many of the comforts and pleasures of post-war modern industrial society by the ravages of World War II – to champion the grinding sounds of the blues, despite the genre’s United States’ conception and initial evolution. Folk, on the other hand, was born and bred in the European rural landscape – and, paradoxically again, found its initial modern champion in the free thinking, coffee houses of post-war America.
English (London via west country) outfit the Archie Bronson Outfit is a little bit folk (mainly courtesy of drummer Arp Cleveland’s lyrics – though (thankfully) there’s precious few flowers and no tales of communitarian utopia to be heard here), and a lot more driving blues. Throw in some post-punk anger cured in the cellar under the palatial Gang of Four legacy and that’s where the Archie Bronson Outfit find themselves. "Derdangderdang" – the title is an onomatopoeic reference to the sound of a guitar – is possibly where The Mess Hall would’ve ended up if Jed had grown up in Cornwall, and Cec’s afro was on his face, not the top of his head. At its best "Derdangderdang" is simply mesmorising – you could get through the pulsing guitar and driving beats of "Cherry Lips" with a quarry full of earth moving equipment, Kink is a haunting lament that skirts round the edge of an apprehended violence order and "Dart for My Sweetheart" and "Got to Get"threaten to explode at any moment like a powder keg of rock excitement.
At its less agitating moments (notably the oddball funk of "Dead Funny" and the barrelling "Jab Jab") you’re still compelled to tap your foot with abandon, just in case the weather changes and you’re caught in a blues rock shower. Cleveland’s rustic folk literary tendencies are rarely far from view; the dialectic at play between oblique metaphor and straight rock in Cuckoo is transfixing, while "Modern Lovers" suggests Jim Morrison’s legacy might transcend commodified celebration. And while the album opened in a blaze of 1979 attitude meets 1959 sincerity, it recedes quietly into the night with the lazy folk musing of "Rituals", leaving us all yearning for more of whatever it is the Archie Bronson Outfit choose to bestow on the world. - Patrick Emery
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