[18 October 2006]
It’s taken exactly two decades for the New Salem Witch Hunters’ debut album to achieve release on this newfangled CD medium, but the timeframe is irrelevant: this music could have been recorded in 1966 or now; all it needs are cigarettes, bad attitude, tube amps, and a garage. NSWH provide so much more, though: from the irrepressible jangle of “Bad Cattle” to the blistering sonic reduction of “Goodbye / It’s Time / To Die”, these Cleveland rockers fully embody the garage ethos, bashing out blazing bursts of antisocial transcendence. Chord patterns remain simple but amazingly pleasing (even if “At the Border” essentially is your steppin’ stone), drummer Sam Petrello drives the band forward with zippy fills and crashes, and Dave Atkins knows when to snarl and when to shriek; on “Love”, he sings the title word as if it were a flesh-eating disease he’s just discovered crawling up his arm. “Government Acid” appropriately dissolves into an organ-led meltdown, and catchy tunes like “Falling” and “(It Seems Like) Summer’s Here at Last” sound like grittier versions of the dB’s at their best. Hell, “Headed for a Change” even throws in a few wayward bars that could have wandered in from Forever Changes. New Salem Witch Hunters is a flat-out garage classic, and the folks at Get Hip have done well to reintroduce it. The band, short on prolificity but long on endurance, still kicks out the occasional jam today, and one can cite precedent from the Seeds to the Cynics all day long without in any way impinging on the resilient freshness of this tightly-woven little barnstormer.