Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Booze - Easy Beats in Modern Time

...and by tomorrow, I meant Tuesday. Tuesday brings me to two bands whose CDs I was delighted to receive in the mail: Kingsbury and the Booze. Though vastly different from one another (one's a garage-pop outfit from Atlanta, the other a soft shoegaze-esque group from Florida), the two offer similar pros and cons, and I found myself exercising a like vocabulary in the reviews of both. One's gimmicky and the other seems quite serious about its efforts, but what I love about them is that each band takes the guitar quite seriously and pays tribute to the instrument in a way deemed fit for its respective band's sound. Hopefully, there'll be more ways of pairing like this in the near future.

The Booze - Easy Beats in Modern Time

For enthusiasts of progress in music, genres like electronic and hip-hop are only going to get better and better because there are so many sounds – human or otherwise – that haven't yet been tinkered with. But to rock purists who value the old-fashioned, romantic quality of a guitar, there doesn't appear much left in the way of style options, and the only way to keep rock exciting is to update what's been done. Retro is and has been huge in Indieland for a few years, and while it is, on one hand, a bit lazy for musicians to freshly claim the past instead of being inventive, it's also pretty fantastic that those of us too young to have seen the births of rock and roll, the British Invasion, punk and post-punk now have a chance to witness re-births of all of the above. I love guitars and always will, and as someone born too late to experience these dead genres firsthand, am relishing (with little guilt and much pleasure) the retro imitations of those who were.

The Booze is one of these imitations, a group too late and low-budget for that so-called garage-rock revival in the mainstream five years ago, though they've also delved so far into their 1960s blues-pop shtick that they're not likely to find mainstream appeal. So they do shows here and there, perhaps with retro girl-group the Pipettes (for whom they appropriately opened a few gigs earlier this year). And they release an album, likely the only one they'll release, or perhaps the first of two or three, tops. They're a tribute band with original songs, and surely this won't help their lifespan, but as far as a band of this sort goes, they sound pretty damn good.

The relationship between lead and rhythm guitars on “Heartache” and “The Next Train” are strangely reminiscent of the doubly-high-pitched Hammond/Valensi pairing, meaning not necessarily that the Booze sounds like the Strokes, but that you don't realize until moments like the openings of these songs just how retro the Strokes are, despite the lack of irony with which they play. The Booze, however, are rather ambiguous in their irony – either obviously genuine or obviously ironic – though the record's cover imitation of a 1960s British Invasion photo, displaying the band in mod suits, might work to sway your opinion prior to a listen.

A visit to the band's My Space page or the rare review of Easy Beats in Modern Time suggests that the Booze is mainly influenced by Them. Vocalist Chaz Tolliver spends a chunk of time straining to reach the same raspy “hark!” that Van Morrison once barked, and while he's at his best if simply singing, his occasional attempt at manning up brings the Booze down to the level of a Them parody – in other words, an update on the Shadows of Knight (who had a great cover of “Gloria,” by the way). This is painfully, painfully apparent on album opener “Hard Luck Woman,” where Tolliver overpowers the smooth, lazy guitars behind him. But that's as bad as the album gets; a smart move, considering that a listener will forget how dreadful the opener is when the rest of the record is such a vast improvement. Funny thing, though – songwriting here is completely credited to guitarist Randy Michael and bassist Wesley Flowers, so without any sort of writing duty, it seems Tolliver exists solely for his scratchy Shadows of Knight style. That, and how decent he looks in a tie. But he mostly works well for completing the band's chemistry, and regardless of authenticity or originality, the Booze is purely a fun throwback to a time before purists were called purists.

(Album available on iTunes)


Travis said...

i saw this band play with the pipettes a month or two ago (chapman made me go to the show, you know how i hate fun music).

they were a lot of fun. Pretty tight. I was going to buy their CD, but the idea of more shots of gin to get through the pipettes set sounded much better.

China said...

You do hate fun. I'm not much of a Pipettes fan but am jealous that you got to see the Booze - if you've seen them live, can you tell whether they're genuine or not?

Travis said...

i think they are? i dunno. when they first came on stage, i laughed at their outfits a bit (though i cant remember what they were, damn alcohol) but they slowly won me over, personality wise and music wise.

so if i had to vote, i would say yes, genuine as can be. but you never know.

Anonymous said...

chaz tolliver is amazing!!!!!!

R.W. said...

Wondering if you can help. I'm looking for the setlist for The Booze show in Denver on 4/14/10. Can't find much info on these guys. Also curious if there is a studio version of their cover of Gloria.