Cedar Fever Records
There’s something to be said for a band that can take a poem by Ezra Pound — particularly one like “Ancient Music,” with lines like, “Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us / An ague hath my ham” — and put it to music in a way that’s both fitting and unpretentious. There’s even more to be said for a band that can pull that sort of thing off on its debut album.
But there was every indication that The Gary would be just the band to do so. The Austin, TX trio’s seven-track Chub EP arrived in 2009 with little fanfare at the time but turned out to be nothing short of excellent: back-to-basics ramshackle guitar rock in the Touch & Go vein augmented by the morose, cynical, occasionally stinging poetry of singer/bassist Dave Norwood’s lyrics.
Logan, their equally excellent first full-length, features three more songs than Chub but feels more consistent, tightened and confined even, perhaps because a mood along the latter lines is thematically consistent throughout. There’s no jumpy, angular instrumental like Chub‘s “Freaks Go Forward” to be found here, only songs like the foreboding “Hurricane Radio,” on which Norwood asks, “Do you read me? Is this a vague broadcast?” as he balances on the slim precipice between desperation and resignation. True, “QSB” and “Vice” do introduce the album with the fist-pumping musical energy of, say, “Nine-Oh-Five,” which closed the EP, but it’s a flame that soon fades into the smoldering fire of “Houses” (“What’s that knocking at your door?” Norwood asks in an ominous growl) and “(Eyes in the) Taproom,” the sardonic ballad of a down-and-outer who has drunk himself blind. Again.
This angst-ridden, austere, blue-collar barroom sound in combination with the narrowed-eye worldview of Norwood’s lyrics doesn’t represent a giant leap in musical development; artists like Johnny Cash, Silkworm, and Joy Division offer a good frame of reference. The fact that this Texas outfit stands in such stark contrast to its musical milieu could be viewed in pejorative terms as an indictment of the band’s contemporaries, but that contrast speaks instead, I think, to the simple legitimacy and substance of The Gary’s music.
The Gary: www.thegary.com