Rye Coalition: On Top

Matt Eberhart

Rye Coalition

On Top

Label: Tiger Style
US Release Date: 2002-03-19

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.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.