[21 March 2010]
This Wiltshire band submitted their sophomore album Derdang Derdang four years ago. That opus was saucy piece of slapstick lyrics, dirty disco, and bluesy garage rock. Born out of art school, their brand of music is something horn player Luke Garwood aptly referred to as “mellow trucker space jazz.” But however elusive the sound may be to categorize, the same motifs appear again on Coconut. Perhaps partly due to production by DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, this time around it’s more honed and well-rounded.
The album’s throbbing bass lines and spacey drone jams are sewn together by pleading vocals from singer/guitarist Sam Windett. The heavily bearded singer maintains his scathing wit and deadpan delivery—which fits the band’s grizzled sound like a well-worn T-shirt—but it’s the emotional pull of his wail that really accentuates the band’s palpable and caustic garage jams. It’s haunting and gentle, fragile and flaky all at the same time.
Add to that some soothing harmonies, which help chase the bitter little edges with some feathery cushion on some tracks. “Wild Strawberries” is whipping and angular but punctuated by pleasant “woo-woos”. The swaying “ahhs” in “Hoola” are peppered between Windett’s cooing free-association verse with math-y guitar licks (the song appropriately climaxes with a combination of the two.) Then there is the dance floor candidate “Chunk”, probably the most palatable song on the record, a Devo-ish throwback that’s more new wave than slash-and-burn.
There are moments of chaotic horn-induced freak-outs (“You Have a Right to a Mountain Life/One Up Yourself”) and sweet, sweet love songs (“Hunt You Down”), the latter being a dreary, obsessive ditty where Windett eerily mutters “I’m gonna hunt you down / I’m gonna hunker down / I’ve got a hunger now”. The sentiment may reek of mocking admiration, but the song is still achingly pretty. “You Have a Right…”, however, pulls no punches as Garwood and crew turn up the brass to 11, a thoroughly hardcore interlude.
Though Coconut is front-loaded with abrasive buzzsaw in “Magnetic Warrior” and “Shark’s Tooth”, the album rides off on a proper farewell with the chug-a-long “Run Gospel Singer”. The song properly waves goodbye as the band waltzes out the door, though you can still hear them in the hallway as they depart.
It’s unfortunate that Archie Bronson Outfit does not spit out albums at a breakneck pace, or appear at trendy stateside festivals like Bonnaroo. It’d be nice to hear more from them. It’s possible that members like Windett are more involved with their career as artists than as musicians—the music certainly has the detached feel of not being concerned with marketability. A band like Oneida comes to mind, as well as the old canard about “not quitting your day job.” But the hard truth is that if you’re not obsessed with cornering a segment of the market to make dough, it may be easier to make better music. So, yes, keep that day job, or whatever you do to make money, but keep writing songs, please.