BARE BONES - The Blessings (Basement Boy)
The Blessings’ debut “Bare Bones” isn’t: a) one of those albums that requires three or four spins and a fervid consideration of the lyrics to “get,” b) likely to get passed off as “art” by the guys who made it or anyone who hears it, or c) apt to pester the charts much.
But let’s face it: “art,” as a concept, blows, the charts are a haven for disposable, dumbed-down, overproduced, record company-controlled automatons willing to barter their souls for fame, infamy, Class 1 narcotics, or a photo op, and hanging on every word uttered in something as pure, simple, and beautiful as a rock and roll song is for hopeless no-lifers like Bob Dylan and John Lennon fans. Call it “poetry” if you absolutely must, but in my world, attitude, feel, and swing go a hell of a lot farther than iambic pentameter.
So these Hollywood (don’t let their area code scare you off – these guys are about as far from hair metal as Nick Cave is from Michael Buble) street urchins simply get on with it, “Bare Bones” as immediate an album as you’re likely to get in this or any other year, the band not wasting much time settling into a low slouch and remaining there for the duration, suggesting the listener make use of the complementary mind-check at the front door. That’s not to suggest these guys or the 9 songs they’ve written here (and a cover of Paul Revere and The Raiders’ “Gone Movin’ On”) are brain dead - far from it – but there’s not much here to wax philosophical about, either. Admit it – you love that.
Once the laser beam starts tracking album opener “Drink in Her Hand,” a fretgrinding mash-up of the Stones “Respectable” and the Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” there’s not much to do as every hair on your body stands on end except throw up your hands and surrender. Jeremy White coughs up a lung, Mike Gavigan’s guitar does the damage and leaves, and the engine room of bassist Frank Scimeca and drummer Robert Iezzi steer clear of the wreckage and tattoo a beat you can’t ignore.
White’s pipes make stops in Jagger (bump “The Way It Has to Be” up against “Faraway Eyes”), Greg Provost (Chesterfield Kings – “Hang Your Head”), and Jason Ringenberg (“Goin’ Away”) territory, but he may have a bigger thing to swing than all three put together. Gavigan, a walking reference book of sleazy twang, bends strings until his fingers cramp and bleed, and Dizzy Reed and Teddy Zig Zag Andreadis pound a combined 176 keys as if they’re being paid by the note. Imagine if the New York Dolls abandoned the hooker slap for spurs and rawhide and Johnny Thunders for James Burton and you’re getting warm.
“Bare Bones” sways with sozzled tales of whiskey, women, and the law, all delivered with enough gristle, bone, harp, hooks, and weepy lap steel guitar to make you forget about “Emotional Rescue,” the Faces calling it a day back in 1975, and the grim reality that the entire faceless, painfully undefined internet generation couldn’t come up with songs that breathe like these if you put a gun to its collective head. As modern civilization swirls down the commode, White and Gavigan may be the closest thing we’ll ever get to the early 70’s Glimmer Twins again before we’re all choking on hoof dust from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Call ‘em “throwbacks,” but The Blessings are resolute in their mission to administer an unholy baptism - over Elvis Presley’s grave - of plunk, grit, three chords, and what passes for the truth these days as they romp through a cemetery scattered with the ashes of Keith Richards (and whatever he didn’t hoover up of his father’s remains), Mick Taylor, Rick Price, Warner Hodges, and The Joneses. If you have to Google any of those references, chances are your idea of a party is an extra shot of vanilla flavoring in your morning coffee, in which case it may behoove you to steer clear of this beautiful mess.
“Bare Bones” brims with frisson, authority, scarves, torn denim, worn leather, and the faint but unmistakable whiff of opiates, an album that doesn’t just stand up to repeated listening, but demands it. - Clark Paull
TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR