Twin Peeks Into New Music
Bands seldom have names that describe what it is that they do. In fact, more often their names have nothing much to do with the kind of music they play. Canada’s The New Pornographers obviously don’t do what their rather risqué name suggests. Neither does Portland’s electronica band STRFKR do whatever you may think they do once you put all the missing letters back into their name. So when I came across a New York band called Endless Boogie, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d got a lead on them from a blog and when I checked them out I realised that they might be one band that lives up to its name.
Endless Boogie are from New York’s Brooklyn area and are categorised variously as purveyors of heavy metal, stoner rock or blues rock depending on what source you’re trying to glean information on them from. What makes things difficult is that there’s little on the Internet that can give you an accurate idea of their provenance or what kind of music they play. The best way to get an idea is to play one of their albums.
Although Endless Boogie have been around for a bit (more than a decade, at least), there aren’t too many albums that they’ve released. I found three – this year’s Long Island, Full House Head (2010) and Focus Level (2008). I started with their latest, Long Island. As I said, the band lives up to its name. Their tunes are long, with many guitar-laden hooks and their solos are long. There are nine tracks on Long Island – the shortest is nearly seven minutes and the longest over 14. I mentioned the various descriptions that I’ve read of the kind of genre Endless Boogie play, but I think I’d call it heavy blues. Guitar riffs soaked in blues tradition but fried up to be much heavier; gruff vocals; and a tendency to jam and stretch hooks deliciously on most of their songs. That’s how I’d describe the band.
Endless Boogie can be endless aural fun provided you like their messy sound and don’t mind that they can get a bit heavy – not exactly head-banging stuff but more like a dose of blues-rock that has been amped up by steroids. After searching endlessly, I found an interview with Paul Major, frontman, guitarist and singer of Endless Boogie, and learnt a bit about the origins of the band (they began in the late 1990s); their influences (guitar-led bands and psychedelic rock outfits, both obscure ones as well as the usual fare from the 1970s); and the fact that the band is most reluctant to play gigs or tour unless specifically invited. That kind of explains why they’ve been below the radar. But Endless Boogie deserve their place in the sun.
The other album that dropped recently was Johnny Marr’s first solo album (second if you count a 2003 album that he did as Johnny Marr and The Healers and which was, by all accounts, a forgettable venture). Marr, of course, is the former guitarist of Britain’s iconic alternative rock band of the 1980s – The Smiths, which broke up after Marr left. Former Smiths’ lead singer Morrissey has since had a glorious solo career but his former bandmate (estranged from Morrissey is also what I understand he is) has also been busy since the British band broke up in the late 1980s.
Marr’s trademark jangly guitar playing style was the hallmark of The Smiths’ sound and his influence has touched many guitarists over the past couple of decades. Post The Smiths, Marr has played with many bands, including The Pretenders, and has cut two records as part of the American indie band, Modest Mouse. Both those albums – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank and No One’s First And You’re Next – are albums to buy (Tip: Modest Mouse even without Marr has other albums that are worth checking out).
I love The Smiths and Marr’s jangly guitar on all their albums and I loved the two Modest Mouse albums. So naturally, I was eager to listen to his new solo, The Messenger. It was a bit of a disappointment. Well, the guitar is still jangly; the music altogether not bad; but something is still missing. Marr is no gifted singer. I mean he sings alright but doesn’t really have a strong voice. I’m going to give The Messenger a couple more chances by spinning it some more but here’s the thing: I wish (and this is one wish that I’m quite certain shall never come true) he and Morrissey reunite.
The jangly guitar would then have the vocals it deserves.
I’d mentioned in January about Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite collaborating to do an album. Well, that album is out. It’s called Get Up! and on it we see the eclectic songwriter Harper match his skills with Musselwhite, who is arguably the best blues harmonica player alive. Worth grabbing.