Think outside the boom box: Bass Drum of Death lives on
Music columnist Patrick McKenna discusses the Mississippi punks’ new album
Bass Drum of Death is a group that would shotgun a beer on stage seconds before plowing into one of their many destructively catchy, wild songs. Like their peers who fall under the umbrella of different punk-influenced music, such as Ty Segall and FIDLAR, BDoD has generated a reputation for unreasonably sweaty shows that present a chaotic yet coherent batch of blues-tinged garage rock.
Formerly the solo project of guitarist and singer John Barrett, the band evolved from Barrett writing and recording all the material while touring with a revolving lineup of hired hands, to him and drummer Len Clark making music together. Both “GB City” (2011) and “Bass Drum of Death” (2013) were well-received within the underground garage rock community, and extensive touring led to the group gaining a reputation for performing their party-hardy garage rock louder and faster than most other groups within the sub-genre.
Released Oct. 7, “Rip This,” the group’s latest LP, holds the same level of angst-filled battle cries and killing monotony with a power chord. Clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, the album doesn’t feel rushed. Instead, it’s a blistering collection of nine bangers that all meet a similar tone of giving the finger to authority and slam listeners with that mentality. Reminiscent of proto-punk titans The Stooges and The Sonics, the pulverizing, minimalistic fuzz-rock that inhabits “Rip This” melds perfectly with the aggressive vocals Barrett delivers.
“Rip This” trades out the more lo-fi, hissing sound the band’s previous two albums held for a cleaner production. At the same time, it maintains the energy and force that comes from Clark’s explosive drumming linking up with Barrett’s lead riffs. The “live-sounding” presentation found in most of their previous studio work has transitioned into something a bit slicker, but still deafening with power.
The sludgy, Nirvana-esque “Sin Is In 10” provides the dirtiest of guitar on the album, while “Better Days” has Barrett demanding answers for his darkest of times in the sole acoustic song of the album. “Left for Dead” is the epitome track for an album that, if anything, praises rebellion in the form of Barrett’s intense howls, his raw, swerving punk-loving guitar work, and Clark skinning the shit out of his skins.
“Rip This” sometimes does muddle together in one continuous garage-rock track, but given focus, it holds some of Bass Drum of Death’s fastest and strongest tracks. With this record, the group is slamming against the wall of mediocre indie rock and crashing the party, full force.