Remember that kickass local band that used to play down at your town’s chosen collegiate hangout, stuck back in the rear between booths of drunk students, rocking like hell on crappy PA and inspiring awe in just about any semi-lucid individual within earshot? Slobberbone is that band, albeit one still finding a voice on this third album. They seem so earnest, so sincere; they can’t really mean it, right? Sure they can-and these simple tunes hit home with such single-minded determination that they are all but impossible to ignore.
Lumped in by some with the alt-country crowd, singer Brent Best undoubtedly shares some of his style with Farrar and Tweedy. Son Volt has never rocked this hard, though, and Wilco is the Stones to Slobberbone’s Bad Company, if there must be a comparison made. More rockin’ country than country-rock, songs like “Gimme Back My Dog,” “Pinball Song,” and “Lazy Guy,” (With Drive-By Truckers front man Patterson Hood contributing a typically shredded vocal cameo) twang with a sometimes dark, menacing feel, like the mammoth, roiling dust storm rolling in on the album’s cover photo. Banjos, mandolins, and steel guitar add some nice punkgrass elements. “Bright Eyes Darkened,” with its slow-burn intro, recalls an early Jason & The Scorchers, but never quite reaches that revered combo’s incendiary heights.
More often than not, the songs hit their desired marks with a deft, searching, yet roundabout lyrical slant. “Lumberlung” is worthy of Springsteen with its dream of a road trip invoking the mindset of a defeated, weary traveler. But the narrator realizes, “When she wakes me from my delirium / I know that I’m no longer fun for her.” As in a philosophical short story, the imagined journey has a seemingly metaphorical correlation in the life of the one who dreamed it.
All caveats to this still-developing band’s growth process aside, this is a remarkably coherent summation of the band’s mission statement, “Remember, it’s rock.” Just as their peers in The Bottle Rockets and The Drive-By Truckers have given redneck rock a good name again, these Denton, Texas residents are out to prove that the dog-eared, much-copied blueprint laid down a decade ago by Uncle Tupelo is only a foundation for some serious rock and roll.