Darren Gaines, who is The Key Party, says things like, "The Key Party came to me like someone else's wife at 3 a.m. on a Friday night. Bingo. The lottery" and sings songs he calls "revolutionary songs and terroristic ballads". While Mr. Gaines' bio reads like an over arching caricature of a struggling rock and roll singer-songwriter, his record Hit Or Miss is substantially believable. Hit Or Miss is 15 songs of rock and roll poetry celebrating the debauched, the broken, the drunken and the misfitting. Gaines is a poet in the same sense that Exene or Lou Reed is a poet: as much about an attitude and a stance as about specific words and notes struck. Musically Gaines has a voice of tattered velvet that falls between Tom Waits and Steve Wynn (via The Dream Syndicate not Vegas). Gaines is comfortable with his acoustic guitar, the constructions basically folk in nature, and his steady strum anchors the songs before they are adorned with his band's chanting, clanging, orgiastic brew of complimentary noise. But it's Gaines' voice that fills these songs with attitude, his croon oozing around and through the cigarette smoke that shrouds these songs.
At 15 songs Hit or Miss is too long by five. There definitely feels like there's some filler here. Gaines has a habit of rewriting the same motif over and over, certainly lyrically if not always sonically, and that can get tiresome. But when The Key Party puts it all together on songs like "That's The Way We Do It Here" and "Just Not My Day", Gaines' rock and roll at all costs attitude is absolutely contagious. You can smell the leather pants and feel the stale beer, or something like that.