Music

The Hard Lessons: Gasoline

Stephen Haag

Solid Motor City garage debut elevated by boy-girl vox... and is that a country twang I hear?"


The Hard Lessons

Gasoline

Label: No Fun
US Release Date: 2005-04-23
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Loretta Lynn's recent masterpiece Van Lear Rose brought about several changes to the music scene: it got Lynn MTV (well, MTV2) airplay, added fringe jackets to Lynn's buddy/producer Jack White's wardrobe, and, most importantly, it proved that country and garage could share a bed. Detroit trio the Hard Lessons took the, um, easy lessons imparted by Van Lear Rose to heart. Their debut, Gasoline, is a great mix of crunching garage guitars (they are from the Motor City, after all) and bold, twangy, countrified female vocals that hits the mark more often than not.

Really, co-lead singer (more about the other "co-" in a minute) Korin Cox is more indebted to country/soul chanteuses Neko Case and Dusty Springfield than she is to Lynn, but she shares a brassiness with all three women. "That Other Girl" could be a track from the 1960s that got lost somewhere between Memphis and Detroit, and only now is surfacing in 2005. Cox exhibits a bluesy swagger on "All Over This Town" -- she sounds like Case fronting the 45s (one of my dream collaborations, if you must know) -- and she strikes a blow for feminism/monogamy on "How It Is With Me" as she tells a beau "If I belong to you / Then you belong to me / That's how it is with me".

Lest you think the album is nothing but loping countryish tunes, sung by some countryfried torch singer, I assure you that Gasoline is a rock record, through and through. In fact, it's the other co-lead singer/guitarist, Agostine Visocchi, who keeps the Hard Lessons decidedly in the rock camp. (In the interest of mentioning everybody in the band, drummer Christophe Zajac-Denek also keeps a rockin' beat.) Visocchi bangs out a sleazy guitar line and fuzzed out vocals on the opener, "Feel Alright", and on many of the band's duets -- "Share Your Vanity", "Feedback Loop" -- Visocchi plays the role of snarler, while Cox is the charmer; they're like a more garage-y version of Young Heart Attack's Chris Hodge and Jennifer Stephens... except that, unlike Hodge, Visocchi can actually sing. On "Milk and Sugar" he quietly notes that he'll "take milk and sugar in my tea" (is he getting in touch with his Jack White dandy side? Or maybe following fellower Detroiter Brendan Benson, who's also been known to sing about tea?), before ending with a menacing "I hate everything about you!" Somehow, these two disparate notions fit comfortably in one song. The band also earned the stamp of approval from Dr. Detroit himself, garage guru/producer Jim Diamond, who twiddles the knobs on "Inspired/Admired" and "How It Is With Me"... so they've got that going for them, which is nice.

Really, the Hard Lessons should consider themselves lucky that they have two vocalists with different strengths who know how to push and pull against each other and create something greater than the sum of their parts. Detroit is brimming with fantastic garage bands, and without that hook, they're just another very good rock band fighting for attention in a crowded scene: an MC5-worthy riff here ("Stop! Stop! Stop!", "Feedback Loop") a fuzzy, funky keyboard here, courtesy of Cox ("Feel Alright", "Inspired/Admired"); it's solid, if unexceptional, material. Fans of Detroit garage will not be disappointed, but vox aside, the Hard Lessons aren't breaking much new ground. Here's hoping they take the (cough, cough) lessons learned from Gasoline -- More Cox! More country influence! -- and apply them to their second disc.

6

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors


David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.