Archie Bronson Outfit
Derdang Derdang
2006
B+



although the dance rhythms develop, the Archie Bronson Outfit produces more of a throb than an urge to jig. Although the sweat never dries, the band knows how to put a controlled structure ahead of reckless abandonment. On their second album,Derdang Derdang, ABO funnel their various urges into one singular sound, pushing repetitive guitar pulses into songs that pull you along.

The songwriting and composition makes the frequent garage/blues-rock comparisons shortsighted. While the UK band has tapped into the Southern gothic tradition, they resist becoming a part of it. Part of the joy of listening to the new album comes from the rush of near-relations that prove irrelevant just as the ABO train knocks them off the tracks.

The removal of reference points aids the group's insistence, where various urges simply become Urge. In a number of songs, this urge could be for sex, yet the band doesn't play a number that you'd especially want to have sex to. Desire drives Derdang, yet limiting it to lust denies other elements—like revenge—that enable simple guitar-and-drums to turn into necessary chug.

While the musicians play locked-in grooves, vocalist Sam Windett turns the pieces into songs that matter. His tormented tenor treats the lyrics not only as signifiers but also as the actual sources of hurt. His delivery runs to spit and spatter, squawked lines seizing and releasing in escalating intensity. Over any given track, the performance works perfectly, but over the course of the album it almost becomes too much. It's an intensity you have to buy into completely.

Those pained lyrics tend to recur throughout the album, building cohesive emotional and literal strands that rarely happen outside of concept albums (see last year's Black Sheep Boy by Okkervil River for a prime related example). The phrase "ten tears" shows up across the disc, freezing and unfreezing based on the narrator's state. Likewise fingertips and lips re-visit each other, with the fingertips changing from "lovely" to "healthy" to "broken" over time. The effort in this mess is to "get over it," but only on a second listen does the significance of that phrase rise up in the second half of the title phrase in "Got to Get (Your Eyes)."

With getting up can come getting down, and ABO play on this phrase in all the likely ways. The urge to dance in "Dead Funny" becomes consumed by direct lust ("I am gonna dive down on you"), but when that phrase is turned into a command ("just get your head down"), the violence escapes from sexuality into other physical aggression, aided by the vengefulness of "Kink" just two tracks earlier. (That song, within itself, turned the line "It would be good to have your tongue" from a seduction into a threat in the span of three verses.) "Jab Jab" makes the final important statement on getting down, crystallizing the bleak worldview of the depressed—"I got you down, you got me down"—before suggesting both the importance of dance and the triumph of nihilism with "God knows how, but we all got down."

ABO keep the music tight and enclosed to match the lyrical mood (and throwing in scattered Stooges-referencing sax helps), making Derdang Derdang a succinct, purposeful statement. Even with its use of repetition and cross-reference, the album doesn't have a moment of excess. Windett may sing that he's "just dust and lust," but he and his band have put some craft into elevating, not that truth, but that fear. In doing so, they've sacrificed neither skill nor feeling, allowing the combination to feed into something bigger. And if the dance rhythms don't carry them away, they've still shown us how to get down.



Reviewed by: Justin Cober-Lake
Reviewed on: 2006-08-01
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