Rock criticism is a tricky thing sometimes. Of course there are all the usual issues: the subjectivity, the ambiguities, that apocryphal “dancing about architecture” quote that’s been attributed to pretty much every literate post-punk icon you could name. And then there’s the simple fact that for some music, bloodless, clinical analysis just ain’t gonna cut it. There’s music you can examine like a Pynchon novel, poring over every lyric and melody fragment with a fine-toothed critical comb… and then there’s rock n’ fucking roll.
The Love Drunks, four rockabilly-obsessed garage punks from Atlanta, GA, belong firmly in the second category. And on the strength of their 10-song, 30-minute, zero-frills debut on Bomp! subsidiary Alive Records, something tells me they wouldn’t argue with that approximation. Opening track “Sketch” lurches to life on a call-and-response exchange between guitarist Michael Holler and raspy-voiced singer Patrick A., who proceeds to set the lyrical tone for the record with a litany of low-life vignettes – some kind of trailer-trash “Walk on the Wild Side.” “It’s a John Waters mess of pregnant women, witches, bitches and kids on psychotropics,” Patrick moans, his voice a mixture of glee and horror and two hundred cigarettes. Then he lets loose with a throat-shredding howl, and they’re off again: riding one riff after another, hardly even stopping to catch their collective breath before the next one kicks into gear.
You may have already guessed that the Love Drunks aren’t exactly Chopin… or Radiohead. “College rock” this ain’t: the songs are shot-glass-sized and sleazy, the last fifty years of dark-underbelly American culture regurgitated over guitar, drums and stand-up bass. Most of the time, it’s as gloriously dumb as it is ballsy and loud. For every rollicking rumination on hedonism and mortality (“Heaven”) or moment of queasy moral ambiguity (is “The John Hutcherson Rag” really a plea for the freedom of the Georgia man who decapitated his passenger in a drunk driving accident?) there’s a song like “Blow,” which draws word-association parallels between cocaine and, well, blowjobs. But like their fellow Southern-fried psychopaths, the Oblivians, the Love Drunks know how to pluck choice lyrics straight out of the gutter: witness “women and livin’ just don’t mix,” the instant-classic line barked ad nauseum by Patrick on a song called “Dirty Bits,” which rivals “And Then I Fucked Her” for blunt buzzsaw poignancy.
But all of this is really beside the point, isn’t it? I’ll come right out and say that this record isn’t going to change any lives. It isn’t going to break bold new musical ground, it isn’t going to top any year-end critics’ lists, and it isn’t going to make you five-pounds thinner. So what’s the point, you ask? Why listen? Because sometimes, all that matters is if a record fucking rocks …dude.
Reviewed by Zach Hoskins
This review is also posted on The Modern Pea Pod.