[30 November 2005]
Detroit trio the Bloody Hollies never do get around to finishing the phrase that is their second album’s title, If Footmen Tire You…, but that’s the only cloud of doubt hanging over a very fine record.
If you know your garage rock, you know deep down in your heart that, these days, at least, most of the music on the scene is derivative of its forebears and that there’s a thin, almost-imperceptible line between “good” derivative and “bad” derivative. No garage band in the past 25 years ever formed with the intention of reinventing the wheel. And so it goes with the Bloody Hollies—guitarist/singer Wesley Doyle, bassist Phillip Freedenberg, and drummer Michael Argento. They plug in their guitars, take a handful of time-tested garage, surf, and blues riffs and proceed to blow out the speakers for 30 glorious minutes. Yes, If Footmen Tire You… is derivative, but it’s definitely “good” derivative.
The Hollies’—and specifically Doyle’s—chief musical touchstones seem to be the first two White Stripes records. Whether that’s more a by-product of the band’s taste or the knob-twiddling by Motor City producer extraordinaire Jim Diamond, who produced and mixed the first two White Stripes albums, remains to be seen. There’s no denying that moments like the supercharged blues of “Burning Heart”, where Doyle yowls, “Be afraid of a burning heart!” in a distinctly Jack White-ian way, or “Infatuation of the Girl” would’ve fit nicely on, say, the Stripes’ De Stijl.
Of course, If Footmen Tire You… isn’t all White Stripes mimicking. For starters, Argento can actually drum, and it’s his solid foundation that allows Doyle to shred his guitar. Opener “Watch Your Head” is a rapid-fire surf riff anchored by two incendiary solos, and if that isn’t combustible enough, the band has swagger and attitude to burn throughout the album. Naturally, they turn in a tune called “Gasoline”.
As for those solos, Doyle believes a rockin’ tune can only be improved by the addition of a down ‘n’ dirty guitar solo. I’m inclined to agree, especially when it comes to garage rock, and they do further punch up tunes like “Dirty Water” (no relation to the Standells’ nugget). But he seems to have attended the Early Dave Davies School of Soloing—like the Kinks’ guitarist when the band first arrived on the scene, all of Doyle’s solos sound the same. In garage that’s hardly a sin, but it’s still noticeable and siphons a little color from the album.
To remedy the above minor problem, it would behoove the Bloody Hollies to add either a second guitarist or a keyboardist—these songs are screaming for the addition of a fuzzed-out Hammond or B-3 organ. If three guys can turn in a lean, muscular, very good album, imagine what four guys would be capable of creating.