When I was presented this record to review, I envisioned myself starting the article about being brought back in time to when I was in college and my favorite record store used to crank Flat Duo Jets across the town from their outer window. It was a romantic vision indeed, one I thought would make for a great opening review. But when the open drums of Roll On kicked in and that guitar, that raw, lonely, eviscerating guitar kicked in, I was in the now There was no romance no reminiscing when it kicked in, there was urgency, primal now, real now, and a sound that is created by a person who has clearly influenced some of the raw, real, rock that is going on today.
Let’s get down to it. I am not going to bore you with what I know about Dex or what I can google, I want to talk about this record, now. Long Battle Coming is like some bizarre rockabilly acid trip. It’s familiar, it’s drums and bass, it’s that spooky voice and then there is that middle section. These brilliant jazz chords set on top of an old school beat that sends this song into schizophrenic bliss. I am a guitar nut, the layering of the instruments of this track are not to be missed. Prelude In G Minor is another example of guitar heaven. The main melody guitar, midrange-d out of it’s mind, more reverb carries the tune while there is an underpinning of rhythm and accentuation from two other layered guitars. They all meet in the right space in time, it is never cluttered. I would say it is a joy to listen to, as it is, but it is too spooky and cool to use the word joy.
Enough about the guitar, I could go on for days but shouldn’t as this is an album review. Dex’s voice is in command here. It can be dark, low and yet bring you in. I would have to say that my favorite track on the record is Baby I Know What It’s Like To Be Alone. There is a portrait painted between the lyric and the voice, ‘When winter comes I’ll be far away in my lonely room/My friends can’t hear me when I call’. This self-inflicted loneliness fascinates me. The description of time moving through the viewing of funerals (are you waiting), the snow covered ground. I can see the picture, I can’t say with definition what it all means, but I have my version of it. To me, that is the sign of a great song, something that lets me fill in the blanks with my own experience, my own thoughts. I won’t mutter this with my details. Listen to the song, it knocked me on the floor.
There is a beautiful shift from this song and the two before it to a cover of So Sad About Us. I love this song, always have. Dex Romweber Duo does it with justice supreme. Sara’s drumming is fantastic all over the record, especially on this track. Her fills roll over the track, never losing the truth of the groove, never losing the intent of the song. But the fills color, fill in space, and do so with such an ease it is brilliant to listen to. Mary Huff’s harmony is brilliant, it breathes, it moves around the melody. This track is almost like a random segue from the intro three vocal tracks into the next two instrumental tunes (I mentioned Prelude In G Minor already) and Blackout! Blackout! has all the makings of 60’s garage rock at it’s finest. I’m sorry for such a cheap term, ’60’s garage rock’, the groove implies it but this tune is way more complex by the time the bridge hits. What the hell are those harmony voicings? Why can’t I stop listening to it? I know the answer to that, it’s fucking cool.
I Don’t Want To Listen, a stoic lyric, a stoic vocal delivery surrounded by megatone-ish vibrato guitars. We are back from the seque of Who cover and instrumentals to this dark, rich take on old school American music. As commanding as his vocal is in the front, proud, full of bravado, when he takes it the octave up on the last verse he is vulnerable. His vocal is similar in We’ll Be Together Again. The range of Dex has and the cast of characters he brings to the table on this album are damn cool, especially as it is all coming from the same Scottroat. I want to get back to We’ll Be Together Again. The drums, the snare off, the hi hat keeping time while tom fills melodically fill up the sound. I can’t say enough about Sara’s grooves on this record. Listen to the snare wail at the beginning of Blue Surf.
“Someday I’ll drive the shadows from my life/and when I’m done I won’t switch the light/But when you want my love I won’t be there/I’m tired of this One Sided Love Affair” An acoustic favorite from the album.
Shit, I didn’t describe everything that is going on here or all the tunes. Why bother. Just as I said I feel cheap writing ’60’s garage rock,’ I somewhat feel cheap writing this review. I can’t put into words what sonically exists. These cats are steeped in roots but forging ahead. The end track Weird (Aurora Borealis) is with instrumentation I know, but nothing like I have ever heard. And on and on. I can give a clue, but you need to take the next step and wrap it around your ears. You won’t regret it.
PS Somebody from Bloodshot please ask Dex what the hell that fuzz pedal is in the background of Blue Surf!