Crack City Rockers: New Myths

[30 June 2004]

By Stephen Haag

Add this to the list of things the music industry needs more often: hype-building EPs. Granted, it helps if such a release is a band’s first offering and not their sophomore effort, as is the case with New Myths, the latest from Portland, Oregon’s, Crack City Rockers, but whaddya gonna do? Few bands arrive on the scene fully-formed, ready to wow the universe with a brilliant debut, but too many bands expect instant fame without paying any dues. In this age of instant gratification and instant celebrity, nobody has the time to lay the groundwork for a solid career—especially when it comes to the ephemeral music scene. So maybe it’s because the Crack City Rockers—surely the darlings of Portland’s Chamber of Commerce—have bucked the trend and released an EP around which to rally the troops and not demanded unearned fame and fortune, or maybe it’s because said EP is very good, that there is reason to get excited over 14 minutes of rock from a promising young band.

Blah blah blah, Steve, what do they sound like? Well, over the course of six songs (plus a throwaway 11-second track, “Munky”), CCR run the gamut from sunny power pop (after all, they do call Paisley Pop records their home) on opener “Glory of the Sun” to organ-fueled post-Heartbreakers (Thunders, not Petty) punk (“Occult Piss”). They even toss in some horns on “Already Dead” that favorably calls to mind the New York Dolls at their, um, horniest. The album isn’t long enough to waste any notes.

In addition to catchy songs, the band possesses a sharp sense of humor. How else to explain NC-17-esque lyrics like “Estrogen Mess”‘s “when the knife bit your neck and you bit his dick so hard that both of you screamed” with a sunny, upbeat (or is it ironic?) “ooh"s and “aah"s? (Note: the album is much less offensive than the above lyrics would lead one to believe.) Then there’s the darkly funny album cover, a clip art joke along the lines of cartoonist David Rees. Sandwiched between Egyptian hieroglyphics are clip art drawings of a mohawked punk, a basketball player, and a woman painting a peace banner, the cynical intimation being that American individualism in the 21st century is as outdated as the ancient Egyptian culture (hence the album title), and the Crack City Rockers gleefully sit on the sidelines point this out, then proceed to rock out in the face of the abyss. That, or else the band didn’t have a lot of money and using public domain art clips was a cheap way to illustrate a cover. Either way, it’s all good.

But this good-natured, if full of hot air, discussion about the band’s sense of humor and their album cover choices obscures my point about the beauty of the EP: Free of conceptual constraints than can (and maybe should) inform full-length albums, New Myths as an EP is free to roam, stylistically speaking. Each incarnation (for lack of a better term) of the band, be it poppy, punky, or even vaguely bluesy (check out guitarist Dennis Mitchell’s coda on “Estrogen Mess”), is thrilling and different, yet unmistakably the work of the same band. No matter which direction the band chooses for their next full length LP, fans won’t be disappointed. Consider the work of the EP officially done here.

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