DOWNHANDED - The Bloody Tears (Licorice Tree Records)
Everything is big in Texas – or so Texan residents will tell anyone who wants to listen. Texas has certainly produced its fair share of good psych-garage music (look no further than the 13th Floor Elevators and the Butthole Surfers). Austin, the capital city (and, by way of irrelevant trivia, the sister city of Adelaide) has long boasted a vibrant local scene centered around the bars of 6th Street.
The Bloody Tears (I'd like to know the origin of that name – at first glance it sounds like it should be the name of a down-on-the-skids blues cover band in rural Arkansas) hail from Austin, Texas, and play music that is guaranteed to make you boogie in a rock'n'roll sort of a way.
The opening track, "C'mon Up", is a hip shakin', ass wigglin' tune that evokes everything good about the late 60s garage soul scene that bridged the gap between James Brown's seminal soul and the Sly Stone/George Clinton funkness of the early 1970s, but with a garage sensibility that brings to mind the Detroit Cobras and early Deep Purple. "Missing" is dominated by a flourishing keyboard garage march that puts further pressure on your lower body to dance like a mad person; the lead break is indulgent – in the way lead breaks must be to achieve their purpose – but not gratuitous. "How Can This Be" sees the emergence of the harmonica, which is probably the high light of the song – it lacks the danceable intensity of the previous two tracks.
"Talking With Your Baby" starts with a spoken word lament, backed by some cymbal shimmering that reminded me of the best Detroit Cobras' "she done me wrong" covers; the result track is a catchy, 50s country rock meet garage themed high school dance sonic aesthetic. "C'mon and Swim" is a cover of the Bobby Freeman sorta-novelty tune (first released in 1964) but performed here with a dedicated intensity not generally associated with the original.
"Glad You're Gone" drops down a gear in its quest to narrate some adolescent emotional drama, but without any obvious loss of momentum. "Snooks' Thing" (note the correct use of the possessive apostrophe) is an instrumental jam that's all over the place – in a good way – like some acid deranged freak trying to make breakfast after a night in Stanley Owsley's company. "Listen to Me" is the closest thing to a romantic lament on the album, a narrative of dysfunctional communication between teenage lovers set to a soundtrack that's on the bubble gum edge of 60s garage pop.
"Treat Her Like a Lady" has that slightly patronising gender specific theme that'd be perfect subject matter for some wannabe academic searching for material to include in a collection of critical essays on gender relationships in rock'n'roll ... but here it's just perfect subject matter for a spin on the dance floor, a neat marriage between The Come Ons and Detroit Cobras. The album finishes on a nice, happy note – if almost garage on prozac – with the Brady Bunch meets Hitsville USA in a Jim Diamond produced ball of fun "I Got a Good Thing Going".
For a band with a name that suggests turgid, pretentious observations of life, love, bitterness and death, The Bloody Tears can certainly create a good time atmosphere. With a sound like this, surely they're not far from being the next overseas signing to Bruce Milne's Infidelity Records?
- Patrick Emery
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