Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Archie Bronson Outfit Craft a Breakup Album for the New Era

Archie Bronson Outfit
Derdang, Derdang
Domino Recording Company

by Rinjo Njori

In 1991, my girlfriend broke up with me and I listened to Chris Isaak's Heart Shaped World a million times. The album was incredibly sad, both in the music and Isaak's lyrics. In the post 9-11 society things are decidedly darker, and the Archie Bronson Outfit have probably delivered an album that equals that sadness in Derdang Derdang.

Unfairly billed as a psychedelic blues act, The Archie Bronson Outfit's sound is more in line with the Billy Childish school of simplicity, mixed with the dark undertones of revival era seventies folk-psych (see Beck or The Brian Jonestown Massacre), and the haunting vocals of say Jeffrey Lee Pierce or Gabriel Hart (though distinctly more British). Mark Cleveland and Sam Windett make up the nucleus of the group. Where Cleveland writes most of the lyrics, Windett delivers them with unusual despair.

Derdang Derdang has recurrent themes of simmering violence, impulsive sexual fantasies and loss. With lyrics like "Fat Cherry Lips", "Bunching Fists", and "Broken Fingers" contrasted with "It's So Fun To Love Someone", "Only You Can Remove Such an Ache" and "Hold Me In Your Trembling Skin," the listener can only imagine what kind of rage is in Cleveland's heart and marvel at how effortlessly Windett sings those lyrics.

"Dart For My Sweetheart," the most pop oriented track, starts out as an innocent albeit perverse boast, quickly devolving into violence and allusions to death. The rolling and morbid "Rituals" comes closest to the blues genre the band is often aligned with. What starts as a blues meditation quickly picks up when Cleveland's galloping drums enter the song. However, the jazz outro on the last ninety seconds of the song is dominated by Luke Garwood's "mad horns." Although the horns are buried and wasted on "Cherry Lips" and "Got To Get" that is not the case here where he goes full force and almost performs outside the song. There are curious similarities to the lyrics in this song and the movie River's Edge. What if any part the film played in the "inspiration" of the song is not clear; still, the song reminded me of the corpse that laid along the river in movie. The same sick voyeuristic feeling in the pit of my stomach came back as I read through the lyric sheet. Part of me feels that these lyrics try to capture the feeling just after the girl was killed. More than likely I may be reading too much into those lyrics.

The Depeche Mode and Bauhaus influences can't be ignored on "Got To Get (Your Eyes)." The muted tribal drumming tones down the gothic feel, but the bass line has an unmistakable late 70's/ early 80's feel - straddling the line between goth despair and pop inspiration. The drums and guitar on "Dead Funny" are eerily similar to Genesis' "That's All." Excluding that, the group takes the opportunity to craft a solid anthem. If anyone is going to remember any song on this album, it will be "Dead Funny."

Derdang Derdang isn't all "dead roses." The unnecessary "Harp For My Sweetheart" is merely an acoustic rearrangement of "Dart For My Sweetheart." When all is said and done, the "electrified" version hits harder and is more representative of the Archie Bronson Outfit. The directionless "Modern Lovers" does more to irritate then further their sound and feels more like filler.

The Archie Bronson Outfit is a rare find. Rarely does a band keep it so simple and get under your skin so effectively. The mood never boils over. The violent imagery seems to occur after the fact - even if it is right after. The album is raw and if you discount the lyrics the music remains just as dark. Overall, it's perfect music for a rainy Saturday night after you get dumped by your girlfriend, particularly if you must listen to it a million times.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!