Battle Hymns For A New Republic
This is more like it. In these hostile times, with the man who gives monkeys a bad name hovering his unopposable thumb over the button, you’d have thought there would be more anger and aggression coming to the musical fore. Sure, there have been numerous songs of discontent, but in lacking an edge they come across as a slow-handclap from the W.I. To be honest I don’t even know if Alabama’s Plate Six are pissed off with señor Bush per se - but they are damned pissed about something. Their record is called Battle Hymns For A New Republic, a manifesto backed up by their music; music at the frontline, heavily armed with sonic molotovs.
It comes as no surprise that they are inspired by Fugazi. After a 50 second opening of feedback (buckle up kids), singer David Hickox’s call-to-arms shout on As The Pinson Turns is eerily similar to Fugazi front man Ian Mackaye - and yes, Plate Six are worthy of being mentioned in the same snarl as the DC legends. Deeming a bassist unnecessary, Hickox, fellow guitarist Darryl Jacks and drummer Brad Davis rip through 11 tracks without letting the pace slack, closing with the 11 minute epic Maximalist Anthem. It’s powerful, adrenalin charged stuff - but not just for the sake of it. The interplay between the two guitars and the excellence of the drumming gives each tune it's individual hook.
Along with Fugazi, Plate Six cite the wandering guitar work of Polvo and the noise and chaos of Sonic Youth as influences. They also remind me of another of my Hall-of-Famers, At The Drive In - who could do pissed-off better than anyone. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of music out at the moment is nice enough, but maybe too nice - the aural equivalent of sticking your head in the sand. Battle Hymns For A New Republic grabs your head out of the sand, shakes it by the ears and gets your hearts and minds rocking hard.
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Join Dan Sartain
This is the second full length from the Alabama based musician and at 24 Sartain has managed to create a timeless piece of work that oozes bitterness but is delivered with an upbeat confidence. Recorded partly with a mariachi band and partly with The White Stripes producer Liam Watson, Join Dan Sartain is a lighthearted and refreshingly honest example of one man doing what the hell he feels like.
The great success of this record lies in it's subtle air of defiance. The 15 songs here represent a polite two fingers up to just about everyone in Sartain's life. As the last notes of the closing track Love Is Black ring off you can imagine Dan Sartain, with the arrogance of a young Johnny Cash, throwing his guitar at the mixing desk and storming out of the building mumbling "fucking record that, see if I care." The music isn't at all aggressive and it's hard to pin down just where this defiance comes from, but the effortlessness with which Sartain delivers his short little ditties is a good place to start. The furious pace of the opening track Drama Queens set's Sartain's agenda from the outset. At one and a half minutes it's a tightly packed bundle of forked tongue bitterness and it hooks you in good and proper. And talking of tongues, Sartain's seems firmly in his cheek as he skips through many different genres from the dirty grunge of I Wanted It So to the spanish love song Besame Mucho, originally recorded by Elvis. The warmth of the mariachi accompaniment of Flight Of The Finch is contrasted nicely by the fierce musings of two of the albums highlights, Gun Vs Knife and Hangers On.
It's great to hear an album that obviously comes from a rich tapestry of sources and though many of them will instantly spring to mind they will be wiped clean just as quickly and the lasting impression will be be a work very much its own. The arrogance of the music is reflected in the title of the album and if this is Dan's raleigh call to join him then I for one am in. I say that but at the same time get the impression that you can pledge allegiance as much as you like but the final decision lies with Dan himself and after hearing this record I am left with the immortal words of Eddie Murphy ringing in my ears, "This is my house, if you don't like it, get the fuck out."
I like it, I like it.