There was a time when every town and rural community across America would have at least one group of kids gathering in a garage or a dingy basement with a guitar, a bass, a set of drums, and maybe a small speaker for the singer’s mic to feed into, and – if you were really fancy – a keyboard of some sort. Over occasional protests from parents or neighbors and the egging on from curious hangers-on, primal noise was bashed out repeatedly and with abandon until, hopefully, some songs would begin to take shape. Smokes and beer were smuggled in, and not long after, the smell of weed would mix with the ringing waves of distortion throughout the practice area. Bonds were formed, some lasting years. Hearts were broken. Songs were created. Rock was made.
Listening to Model Citizen Live at Dial Back Sound inspires that feeling of sweaty summer nights in a cramped space with three of your best buds as you try to make music that you know someday will change the world or at least get you noticed. Matt Patton (Drive-by Truckers, Dexateens) has reunited with bassist Craig Gates (Dexateens), drummer Mike Gaut (Bohannons) and brought along fellow Trucker Jay Gonzales on keys to take the garage-rock sound to its logical – and ear-splitting – conclusion. Model Citizen, who littered the landscape with a few CDs around the turn of the century, this time gathered not in a garage or a basement but at Patton’s Dial Back Studios in Water Valley, Mississippi, to rock and bash it out like the grungy old days of the 1960s, or maybe the 1990s. After all, they say the 1990s were just the 1960s turned upside down.
Some songs on those long out-of-print CDs (and a handful of limited-run seven-inch singles) appear on Model Citizen Live at Dial Back Sound, but this time they’re all cut live from the floor, the way the rock gods intended. Drumsticks count off a pummeling riff. Vocals sneer. The bass fills the gaps without crowding the room. Picture the MC5, the Stooges, Boston’s the Real Kids – rock ‘n’ roll void of any studio tricks, loud, screaming, and shaking right into your eardrum. Standout track “10 O’Clock” begins with Gonzales channeling Tommy James while Patton pays homage to the beloved Tuscaloosa, Alabama club, Chukker, which closed its doors in 2003. The groove perfectly captures a live band playing solely for the love of making noise, which is what a club band is all about.
There’s also “Empty Room”, a Model Citizen fan favorite, that here, like everything else, is amped up to 11 in volume and energy as it details a time in Patton’s life when all he had to hold on to was the music his band was making and the songs he was writing.
Throughout Model Citizen Live at Dial Back Sound, Gaut’s ferocious drumming drives Model Citizen to the edge of the cliff, teeters, then pulls back at the last second, powering through on pure adrenaline. The guitars, bass, and organ follow suit, creating a wall of rock that doesn’t let up until the final cymbal crashes down on the closing track – and the band’s namesake – “Model Citizen”. The guys then coolly head to the control room to listen to the wreckage. No doubt returning, at least in their minds, to the days of banging on cheap instruments in the basement, hoping to change the world. Model Citizen Live at Dial Back Sound won’t do that, but it’ll make it a little more tolerable while it’s playing.