To anyone still mourning the death of the Seattle grunge
scene, fear not: Seattle garage rock is making a resurgence.
The most well-known of these bands is The Murder City Devils,
a band that I have often seen compared to The Goddamn Gentlemen.
On the surface, I can see why some would make this comparison.
They’re both from Seattle, they both play loud music, they
both make use of the obscure ‘60s instrument known as the
Farfisa organ (The Doors used it a lot), and they both
were influenced by punk. However, the last similarity is actually
where they begin to diverge. The Murder City Devils were almost
exclusively punk-derived, whereas The Goddamn Gentlemen are
more like the proto-punk, garage rock bands from the mid-‘60s;
the point where rock began to embrace almost totally unintelligible,
heavily distorted lyrics, like those embodied in "Louie,
Louie", "Surf The Bird", and "Painted
Black". Musically, I can’t really say that any of the
songs on Sex-Caliber Horsepower sound like the aforementioned
songs, but they certainly feel like they belong in
the same era. If you heard one of these songs on the Full
Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now soundtracks you’d
never even notice that it and the other songs were 35 years
removed from each other. Sex-Caliber Horsepower is
harder-edged than its predecessors from the ‘60s, having benefited
from punk rock and heavy metal’s legacies, but the core still
sounds true to the original stylings.
Obviously, they’re not creating music as original as the
last wave of Seattle bands. They’ve simply captured the essence
of mid ‘60s Seattle garage rock, and mixed in the sneer and
scoff of punk and the distorted guitars of heavy metal to
give it some bite, but they don’t limit themselves to those
schools of thought either. (Although, if you think about it,
you could probably deconstruct "Grunge" as nothing
more than the disaffected, junkie offspring of a coupling
between Black Sabbath and Joan Baez. On second
thought: blecch. Better not think about that.) "Duck,
You Sucka" has a surf drumbeat, and guitar melodies that
roam the scales in rolling waves (as goes the surf, so goes
surf rock). "Door 34" sounds like honky-tonk hopped
up on speed and "Murder Man" is a creepy and sinister
song about a serial murderer that could have been written
by Jack Marshall, creator of "The Munsters Theme."
They even jazz their music up a bit on the song "Odd
Rod" by throwing a saxophone into the mix. They are careful,
however, to make sure that these little tangents do not derail
the fundamental core of their album. There is variety, but
not so much that the underlying musical paradigm loses its
Despite having a sound that seems so familiar, The Goddamn
Gentlemen have definitely developed a distinctive style, coupled
with musicians who truly understand, and have gone
to great lengths to synthesize, the music of their muses.
I was much more impressed with this album than I was with
the Murder City Devils album that I picked up for comparison
in what is still an obscure, revivalist sub-genre. Prior analysis
aside, Sex-Caliber Horsepower has an infectious energy
that comes blasting out of the gates with the album’s first
offering ("Odd Rod") and carries it through to the
However, I’m still not entirely sold on Mark Gastar’s
raging, drunken vocals. While they lend an unpredictable and
dangerous credibility to the band, it is often damn near impossible
to understand what he is saying.
But then again, that may not really matter. They may be of
little substance, and knowing what they mean could actually
detract from the experience.
If you like punk, rockabilly, psychobilly, punkabilly, or
garage-rock, go buy this album. You won’t be disappointed.
- Odd Rod
- Hip Snake Handler
- Stanton St. Cruiser
- Chuck’s Bleedin’- On The street
- Deutch Baby
- Knock-Out Drop
- You Don’t Work Here
- Dance, Shout & Holler
- Door 34
- Murder Man
- Shark Attack
- Duck, You Sucka
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