Grubstake – Ghosts of Arkadelphia (CD)

Being described as “acid-swamp-blues-music”, I initially was a little reluctant to listen to this disc, but methinks that the title is a little misleading – Grubstake is true rock & roll, grimy and couched much more in the rhythm and blues tradition (that part of the blurb is correct) than much of the rock that is out there in the current. Immediately compelling, a track like “Familiar Ring” is a juggernaut in terms of raw fury. Moving more into the sixties ethnically-influenced rock, the follow up track to “Familiar Ring”, “It” mixes in tribal African rhythms with more Eastern ornaments. Moving out of the vocal range that ey sings in most of the disc, PW McHugh gains something in the way of a Neil Young rasp to ey’s voice. More than just the vocals on “It” are virtuosic, with the incredibly detailed drum rhythms of Rocket1000 adding more chaos to the swirling eddy that is the ending of the song. Going into the hopped-up rhythms of punk rock in “Ballad of Sharon De Paygne”, the crunchy distortion that is present is amazing.

The CD is extraordinarily strong, with even somewhat weaker tracks like “Bimbo Akimbo++” still miles beyond the vast majority of music being produced today – the falsetto vocals are a little overused, but the brief moments of uber-distorted guitar and 70s-arena rock feel is something that can’t be denied. Being lucky enough to create a live feel to this disc, Grubstake is able to recreate all the energy of the live show without any of the dropped guitar lines or audible bone-ups that are all so common to the concert. Ending the disc with the low-tempo “Cvs Hg”, Grubstake has finally deleved into the Spartan world of current indie rock – using pretty much a guitar and pianola, along with tape noise, PW is able to lie eir’s soft voice right over the track to a strong ending.

Grubstake is a band that fights genre-ification are vehemently as any band I’ve ever heard. The rich amount of influences really shine through on the disc, and luckily enough for their listeners, Grubstake is talented enough to go and make an album that is eclectic and yet highly connected, compelling but not simple. The album may be two years ago, but for me, it sounds as timeless as the first X album!

Rating : 7.4/10

Grubstake – Ghosts of Arkadelphia / 2002 Nine Mile Records / 10 Tracks / http://www.grubbies.net / http://www.coffeestainmusic.com / Reviewed 16 April 2004

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