Battlehooch: Piecechow

Whatever talent and polish San Francisco's Battlehooch obviously lack, they almost make up for with an anything-goes '60s garage rock attitude and a spunky dose of DIY absurdity.



Label: Self-Released
US Release Date: 2009

There is something to be said for DIY bands that simply want to rock out and blow minds. You have to love bands that are not very impressively skilled, but play on with a timely passion and unfettered vitriol, much like the late '70s punk movement. Whatever talent and polish San Francisco's Battlehooch obviously lack, they aim to make up for with an anything-goes '60s garage rock attitude and a spunky dose of absurdity, employing a bizarre vernacular of tuneless instruments, ludicrous effects, surreal slacker lyricism, and the power of the aimless, drug-haze jam session. The results are hit and miss, but their effort is much appreciated.

These guys aren't just throwing the DIY tag out there to excuse shitty audio recordings and placate certain hipster genre requirements. They show their inarguable commitment to DIY by playing on the streets of the Bay Area, bringing their music to the people free of charge. Guitarist AJ McKinley truthfully explains, "There's a whole system that exists about how people experience music, and we want to move against that as much as possible." He has a point. Unfeeling corporate monoliths like Live Nation have live music by its short and curlies, and Battlehooch offer a prime example of the kind of rebellion more bands should engage in.

But it is not enough to simply try hard and promote a worthy ethos if you want to achieve decent success outside of your home town with this brand of band. The success I'm referring to, at best, is gaining the caliber of modest cult following that will allow you to quit your day job someday so can you busk around town willy-nilly and carefree. The individuals that make up Battlehooch are passionate enough to pass as buskers, but they are not quite good enough at their instruments to impress anyone who might pay to see them, at least not yet. They need a lot more practice, dedicated practice.

That being said, their gung-ho determination already has them close to falling neatly in a long line of spectacular cult bands, including the likes of Primus, Butthole Surfers, Camper Van Beethoven, and, to a lesser extent, Giddy Motors. Piecechow, Battlehooch's debut album, is peculiar enough to run with any of them. I doubt it will be enough right now for them to gain the kind of widespread, organized fanbase (and occasional major label contract) that most of those bands enjoyed, but they have some time to work on it. As I said, they need more practice, as well as a decent producer and hopefully better recording gear. If they keep experimenting and pushing themselves, though, I'm sure they'll find their x-factor eventually and be able to express it properly.


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