Boo Hag, Graveyard (self-published)
Find it: boohagmusic.com
It’s a classic conundrum for most rock bands, but it’s especially acute for a minimalist, garage-oriented rock band like Boo Hag: where exactly are we going?
The Columbia duo seemed to burst onto the stage fully formed, with protean guitar riffs, thundering drums and personality to spare. The manic bark of frontman Saul Seibert divided the difference between carny and shaman as he and drummer Scott E. Tempo filtered early punk rock through stoner psychedelia, David Byrnes and Tom Waits to land on their own brand. from swampy backwoods to post-White Stripes nirvana rock combo.
Their eponymous debut album in 2016 and their next LP in 2017 the farthest cemented them as one of South Carolina’s most exciting rock bands, but also made them look like a closed entity, a limited bag of musical magic tricks meant to be cast on stage and exulted. . Bear witness, arrived in January 2018, just a few months later the farthest, changed things up a bit in their open exploration of religiosity and more laborious and heavy-handed arrangements, accentuated by cryptic voiceovers and other found sounds that played the aura and atmosphere of the band’s music without alter the fundamentals too much.
In that sense, the addition of saxophonist Thomas Hammond, even in a limited role, seems to have been a catalyst on the new album. Graveyard. On the A-side, which contains the most recent material that features Hammond’s contributions, the band seems looser and more patient than ever before, allowing the songs a space and spread that feels more like a meditative exploration of the Boo Hag dynamic. than a mad dash through the Chinese store. The opening track cut begins with reverberating jazz fusion horn streaks slowly unfolding before the guitars and drums even enter. When they do, there’s a simmering tension, with a feel more akin to the mid-period guitar grain of Sonic Youth than a traditional garage rock bash. The track lasts six exhilarating minutes and seems to usher in a new era for the group.
Hammond’s adventurous and effects-laden approach to his instrument seems to have loosened all the boundaries that previously defined Boo Hag, with nuances of Pearl Jam infusing ‘Skin’ and heavenly Middle Eastern vibes and a sort of Radiohead grandeur. increasing “Crown”. Hammond and Seibert both shine in the glowing prologue to this final track, but even as it builds up, it feels like something distinctly alien to previous efforts, even as the group progresses towards this point. now seems inevitable. The track disintegrates with Seibert’s voice chopped up and lost in the cave as Hammond’s saxophone spins like a flashlight following the abyss, but the band never sounded more alive.
Of course, Boo Hag is still Boo Hag, and the second half of the record seems designed to remind you that the duo’s elemental ferocity is still intact and roaring. Siebert bites the menacing lines in “FUUSA”, and he and Tempo blitz through “Talk” as if they are more punk rock spirits than mere mortals. The last two tracks, “Make Up” and “Time Bomb”, both show the band’s penchant for reinvigorating early riffing and rock ‘n’ roll repetition with demonic zeal and left field, reaffirming their speed.
Yet it seems certain, given their undeniable magnetism, that the future of the band now exists in the unbridled experimentation and freedom that gives such life to the first five tracks.
For most garage rock bands, you don’t want them to change anything. But I can’t wait to see what Boo Hag does next. KYLE PETERSEN
Surprise release by Boo Hag Graveyard last week as a gift to fans during the COVID-19 crisis. It is available as a free download for a limited time.
Wombat Junction, The long game (self-published)
Find it: facebook.com/wombatjunction (available March 27)
One of the hardest things for a rock band to do is translate its sound from the stage to the recording studio. And it’s not just about the lack of crowds. Ideally, in the heat of a good live performance, uncertain moments, small mistakes, and the occasional flats fly right past the listener in a hazy momentum. On an album, these little missteps seem more important because it is easier to distinguish them from the sound.
In some cases – in many cases, in fact – indie rock bands can get away with a lo-fi approach to volume and velocity. But for a band like Columbia’s Wombat Junction, a band that fills songs with a lot of light and shadow, a less than stellar production can sabotage even the loudest songs.
And that’s unfortunately the situation on the band’s new album, The long game. Melodically and structurally speaking, the eight songs on the album are top notch. Guitarists Sam Scollon and Josh McGill can roar like vintage Bob Mold, then dive into complex Peter Buck-style picking with the same skill, and when they go wild at full volume on the opening track, “Where Did You Go “, their rhythmic sync riffs really take off.
But when the song hits its chorus, things start to unravel, and what’s frustrating is that it’s nothing blatant. The voices do enough link with the rhythm section (bassist Robert Dew and drummer Nick McGill). The tempo of the song is not enough as tight as it should be, and a killer chorus doesn’t enough land with the punch he needs.
On the next track, the mid-tempo “Underneath My Skin”, a superb traveling bassline that deviates from the drums, and the guitars don’t really catch up before the chorus. Once again, the song loses its center, and the impact is blunted. And this problem persists throughout the album.
It seems the more the band tries to be nuanced, the more the raw, unvarnished production hurts them. And that’s a shame, because it’s a great collection of songs.
Usually reliable Zac Thomas produced and mixed these tracks in Columbia’s Jam Room recording studio, so skill behind the boards isn’t the issue. I’d bet these songs were recorded live in the studio, either out of necessity or out of a desire to recreate the band’s live sound. But the studio and the stage are two different things, and Wombat Junction could have had a mind-blowing album if he had approached it that way. VINCENT HARRIS
Wombat Junction is giving a live concert Friday at 7 p.m. to celebrate the release of their new album. Access it via facebook.com/wombatjunction.