While his time in the Bassholes directly feeds into the gnarled sound of Lamont “Bim” Thomas’ post-apocalyptic Obnox, that’s about where the influence ends. There are no blues here, unless you count the lament that things can’t get loud enough. Obnox are more likely to swing and pound, crush and scatter—traits better associated with the other younglings he’s been doing business with behind the drum kit, namely Puffy Areolas and the Unholy Two. Then again, there’s not much of their influence either, unless you count the first grinding sonic fuck of “Dr. Dank vs. Dr. Middle.” About the only real strand that ties Bim’s resume together is a Stooges boot or two, and the Masonic Reducer EP shows a dizzying variety in its four songs. But it’s as much a blueprint for those bands as it is a bright new vision of garbage-fi garage. As a stopgap between I’m Bleeding Now and the obviously (at least aesthetically) Prince-inspired Purple Reign II, this single tends to lean towards the latter. The record’s anthem, “Leaving Cleveland” is built on the Stones’ “Satisfaction” riff, but inhabited by sexy whispers from Dirty Mind and a big fat GBV-esque chorus. By the time you get to the grand finale, “Home,” there’s even some blues wafting into the room. Still, it’s stretched and deep jam, creeping along a tightrope between Wishbone Ash and Love. Hard to believe all this is the work of one man.
Of course, the Cheater Slicks are just as responsible for Mr. Thomas’ upbringing as Don Howland is, and it was only a matter of time before Almost Ready, which has already dug up some of the Slicks earliest artifacts (pure Magna Carta type stuff), invited the trio onto one of the most celebrated split clubs of the last five years. The list of past inclusions is too long and storied to mention here, but you adore some of them I’m sure. The Slicks are as vital now as ever, and twice as prolific it seems. “Silver Fox,” while unfit enough (in the best way possible) for one of their records, is perhaps the prettiest tune they’ve ever penned. Reflective and relaxed, it rides along a beautiful melody and wavers in Crazy Horse-esque atmospheres. As straight as they play it, though, Dana Hatch’s warble and the band’s deceptively lake-drag tempo make the song as unkempt and irreverent as any other Slicks paean.
The B-side maintains the Columbus worship (that’s what it’s become, right?) with a ripper from Psandwich. Ron House represents yet another in a long line of Columbus punks more concerned with plowing forward rather than spilling cheap beer over their legacies. If you haven’t heard Northren Psych, it was easily one of last year’s finest hours, teaching the youth and piledriving them simultaneously. You’re probably better off not knowing that “Singing in the Showers” is a cover of pre-Josef K band Fun 4, as it might cloud the perception of this raging blast. House, with quirk intact, can make anything his own, and this proves it. What is likely a rickety post-punk piece of jangle pop (and likely not all that bad), is turned inside-out and reborn as some Nuggets gem as primitively searing as the Music Machine or the Blossom Toes. Filter the sentiment through the Electric Eels and House’s pedigree and you have Psandwich. One has to wonder what the band can become if House can steer this Voltron towards his wildest imagination. Unfortunately, the Spivs’ “Men Don’t Cry” is the odd man out. Though thematically it owes dividends to both the Slicks and the House generation, it kind of crushes the High Street crush developed herein. Maybe Almost Ready should’ve called Screaming Urge, as they’re doing stuff again.
Speaking of odd men out, Slug Guts were one of the first to resurrect the grimy, dopesick veneer of outback punk borne in the Birthday Party–obsessed dens of Australia. They brought an ominous presence with them on their Sacred Bones debut and an equally devastating live show to American shores. What an effect some time to meditate on those lessons learned can have upon a band as “in the pocket” as Slug Guts! Sure, that vast, gaping sense of doom is still present, as is the self-deprecating gore, but there is an increased sense of theatrics on this single. The first and title track lays it out immaculately. “Stranglin You Too” has a widescreen stoicism to it, which comes across as almost sappy, almost beautiful in a drowsy Cure-like languor. It would be romantic pop were it not for the intoxicated slurs of the frontman. Don’t get me wrong, this and the next number, “Suckin Down,” (something I distinctly remember them playing the first time I was floored by them) are ugly, brutal slabs of the higher order of downer guitar thump, but have muscle and vitality, as well as a musicality that sounds honed and less nihilistic. Even “Coathanger Blues,” the most heavily gunked and grizzled of the bunch, gives way to new dimensions like a lonely sax wailing extra-downer vibes. This really sounds like a band making that “ride the snake” voyage into unseen horizons. Highly recommended and part of the Hozac Hook-Up Klub, so you’ll need to beg, borrow and steal to hear this one.
Kevin J. Elliott