I’m old enough to remember seeing the video for “Fly Me Courageous” from the Atlanta, Georgia hard rock act Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ in regular rotation in 1991. Released right at the tail end of the era ruled by hair metal, which would soon get swept away by grunge and alternative rock, the song was quite popular since it was released right around the first Persian Gulf War, and certain Americans – particularly those in uniform – turned it into something of a patriotic anthem. Then the band seemingly disappeared without another blip on my cultural radar (at least) once Nirvana kickstarted a new musical revolution. I sometimes wondered what happened to the group. Well, it turns out Drvin’ N’ Cryin’ is still active – quite active it would turn out – though they were sort of quiet during much of the double-aughts decade. The band is releasing four EPs within the next year; Songs from the Laundromat is the first. It’s kind of an ironic title, considering the opening song on the EP is the jaunty blues-rock ditty “Dirty”. The final song, a nice little jangly country rock sort of ballad, is called “Clean Up”. (Get it? Dirty? Clean Up? Laundromat? Hilarious. Not subtle in the least, but hilarious.)
Probably the most newsworthy event surrounding the release of this roughly 15-minute long EP is that – smack dab right in the middle of its five songs – comes a ditty called “REM”, which seems to be an eulogy to the late, lamented Georgia alternative rock band, complete with references to R.E.M. song titles and lyrics from the classic ‘80s years sprinkled throughout the track. Now, the song won’t make you forget Pavement’s “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence”, which naturally covers similar territory (and did it nearly 20 years ago), but it appears to be a nice gesture, considering that Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ actually toured with R.E.M. when the latter was supporting their Green album. What’s more, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ has gotten fans into the act, by holding a contest to create a video for the song. “REM” is passable and a little cloying, but there would have been worse ways of sending off former tour mates from your home state, I suppose.
Elsewhere, we get the snappy 32-second hardcore punk banger “Baloney”, which solely consists of the lyrics “I go to work / I eat baloney” repeated as quickly as possible. Let’s just put it this way: OFF! will probably not be including the song as a cover in their live set lists (though, that said, the Descendants might). However, what really works and really works extremely well is the gravel growl of an oil can clank of “Ain’t Waiting on Tomorrow”. The song proves that the band does well when sticking to its hard rock roots: you’ll want to take the tune with you the next time you go driving on a straight, flat piece of open highway. Overall, Songs from the Laundromat has a couple of really great songs, a song or two that’s just okay, and at least one outright clunker. Not a bad batting average, I suppose, for a group that’s been around, though not always active, since 1985. Songs from the Laundromat does answer my musical question of what happened to Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. It also proves that you can pretty much take the band for what they’re worth as veterans of the hard rock wars, or utterly leave them going around in circles during the spin cycle if they’re not really your kind of thing.