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The Goddamn Gentlemen
Sex-Caliber Horsepower
Upper Cut Records

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 focus.

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 final song.

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.


Track Listing:

  1. Odd Rod
  2. Hip Snake Handler
  3. Stanton St. Cruiser
  4. Chuck’s Bleedin’- On The street
  5. Deutch Baby
  6. Knock-Out Drop
  7. You Don’t Work Here
  8. Alcotraz
  9. Dance, Shout & Holler
  10. Door 34
  11. Murder Man
  12. Shark Attack
  13. Duck, You Sucka

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