With their debut full-length, Hee Saw Dhuh Kaet, Rye Coalition established itself as a fierce and chaotic rock 'n' roll band with a sense of humor. Produced by Steve Albini, the album was a jagged explosion of chunky guitars and funny lyrics and song titles. But distortion and jokes aside, the band also made a name for itself with technical trickery and a math rock orientation.
Now, with their newest release on Tiger Style, On Top (TS023), the boys of Rye Coalition are exploring their fetishistic side. No, they're not into nurse uniforms, schoolgirls, or S/M -- as far as I know . . . although they do have a song about a nun, "Switchblade Sister: One Tough Nun" -- but the whole album reeks of sweet floral incense and zealous prayer to the gods of rock and roll. Keeping in line with their heavy, Shellac-like roots and their tongue-in-cheek creativity, the Rye Coalition pushes out ten finely composed tracks that revisit '70s classic rock with an air of modern punk aesthetic.
From the get-go, Rye Coalition leeches from its rock 'n' roll idols. The opening track, "One Daughter Hotter Than One Thousand Suns", begins with a bass/guitar riff that screams out, "AC/DC". Raunchy and alcohol-and-amphetamine infused, the song soon forks in two directions. At once maintaining the simplicity and charm (?) of AC/DC with the often-repeated chorus of, "On fire! I think I'm burning for you", and thick guitar riffs, the song also breaks from the blues-based rock tradition with its complex of interwoven guitar solos and breaks.
Next comes "Stairway to the Free Bird on the Way to the Smokey Water". The title alone epitomizes the band's worship/make-fun-of relationship to classic rock music, and the actual song is layered with sounds recognizable in any of the '70s era rock they obviously love. The following two songs follow in this path with sing-along choruses and melodic guitar riffs.
Smack in the middle of the album, though, is "Freshness Frank". Somewhere between meaty, sincere blues and the sex-lined sound of Led Zeppelin's unhurried work, this track is a great interlude on the album. Bluesy guitar solos, angelic 'ooh'ing, and sad (or at least as sad as Rye Coalition can get), grimy vocals emulating any of their whisky-drinking, chain-smoking heroes of the era form a loose knot that soon enough returns to the driving rock sound the Coalition so dearly loves.
"Vacations" and "Heart of Gold, Jacket of Leather" both have pound from point A to point B, all the while dripping with sweat, and "Heart of Gold . . ." even has a Guns N' Roses-style bridge/outro. Plenty of yelling and dissonant guitars follow into two more heavy-hitting songs that eventually break apart into a sample of the sea and the finale: "Honky, Please!"
Filled with absurd lyrics about a mother named Sassafras, intricate guitar picking, and a tenacious beat linking it all together, this last track owes little to the bands memorialized earlier in the album. Rather, it's just pure Rye Coalition, developed from their original sound.
Perhaps Mooney Suzuki's other half, Rye Coalition has built up a hard rock-sucking post-punk attitude that's bound to hold something for everyone into the latest in rock 'n' roll. They don't try to prove anything or create some tenuous façade of sound that obviously isn't theirs. Rye Coalition's been rocking out for over seven years, and the members are all pushing in the same direction.
Once you hear the new album, you'll have no trouble understanding why Rye Coalition is On Top.