Friday, March 11, 2011

A deliberate rocking heaviness permeates the air - Endless Boogie's FOCUS LEVEL

Endless Boogie excels at a non-ironic, unapologetic brand of heavy, jammy, riffy, mildly bluesy hard rock with psychedelic touches and eccentric vocals. Got all that? The non-purist sensibility that defined a certain corner of the early ‘70s rock scene is where these guys park their hi-octane sedans, and the 8-track players (oh, the fidelity) are boldly blasting Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top and Ten Years After. In the hands of lesser players this recipe could easily spell disaster: playing too tight risks landing in sub-Zeppelin territory and erring on the side of sloppy looseness could easily result in approximating the effort of a bunch of excited 17-year-olds rocking out in a rickety old barn. Nice try, but no cigars. But fear not, for this sharp and un-sexy crew holds a wise collective standard on just how this type of long-form goodness needs to be delivered. A big point in their favor is a general inclination toward blunt heaviness over the sort of chooglin’ busyness that really started to undermine this vague style as the middle part of the ‘70s arrived. Another big positive is Paul “Top Dollar” Major’s vocal presence, which falls into the fine tradition of inspired oddness defined by such laudable figures as Capt. Beefheart and Col. Bruce Hampton. There’s a fine moment on this record where he sounds a bit like Jon Spencer if he were raised in a chicken coop by Bob “The Bear” Hite. Golly. This unusual, non-streamlined approach really points to the sort of atmosphere that best suits the band. Specifically, the field party, not the arena stage. This isn’t to insinuate Endless Boogie wouldn’t have tore down the curtains opening for West, Bruce & Laing (for example) back in ’72, only that it’s very doubtful they would’ve been given the opportunity. But please don’t get the impression that FOCUS LEVEL is just an unpolished throwback. The most successful ingredient in their attack is a crafty mixture of density and expansiveness that ultimately distinguishes them from any of their influences and finds the band flirting with the tricky extended simplicity offered up by ‘70s German groups like Can. I’d love to hear these dudes do a rousing six hour version of “Yoo Doo Right” from the back of a flat bed truck on the late great Michael Karoli’s birthday. Where’s my lawn chair? The eyes closed, head down, back-to-the-audience ambiance that Endless Boogie conjure is worlds apart from the custom-van cowbell happy strains purveyed by certain stoner rock acts. This does cozy up quite nicely with the more serious practitioners of atypical heaviness such as Sun O))), Melvins and even late-period Black Flag though, and if you fancy the jammy jelly smeared across Malkmus & the Jicks’ well toasted PIG LIB, you really oughta give this a shot.

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