Archie Bronson Outfit
’ve never had a rat-tail, though my wife scoffs at that. She swears my St. Louis raising and faintly sweaty accent—steam-heat and lightning and Midwestern beer fume—speak to the more than vague possibility of past stylistic indiscretions. Sure, I’ve fallen victim to fads fair and foul. But I insist we all live to outlive something. There may be no better reason for aging than for softening the bitter reminders of Batman tees and Kangaroo pocket sneakers. Well, to come to my point, or at least a dull stub of some sort, in listening to the Archie Bronson Outfit’s debut record, I began to envision these blackened throb-rockers as emerging newly smooth from their own such regrets.
But we’ll get there. The first thing you need to know is the band’s rather star-struck beginnings. Discovered by Domino Prez Laurence Ball in his beloved back-alley pissoir, The Cat’s Back, the band was quickly signed to record this debut record. A very-American three-piece guided by throaty Delta blues and the carnal thrust of seventies Rock and Booze, the ABO lined up cult-fave Hotel, of The Kills, for the production, and set to work in SW London on their debut.
Guided by Hotel’s production, which buries the mix in deep worm-holed soil and murky Delta soul, Fur rides the choked, smoking light of a candle-lit room from start to end. Or to pile metaphor atop metaphor until we’re all confused—a peculiar talent of mine—it’s an oil slide. Slanted, perverse, and bound for uncertain ends, it moves with sleek natural pride, slow to the eye but whiplashing to the senses. Snatches of the Jeff Beck Group, the Flamin’ Groovies, early John Mahall and the Bluesbreakers, and Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac can be traced beneath, with an added thirty years’ worth of fermentation.
“Islands” is almost restrained by lead Sam Windett’s choke-collar vocals, but he still finds a way to scream and grunt beneath the groaning guitars and tones of alarum. “Bloodheat” is perhaps the album’s melting point, as a muddy guitar intro joins with Windett’s red-lantern vocals. Stiff with candle-wax, the song softens in its own heat until eventually burning Windett’s fingertips, a last-ditch attempt to avoid recognizing the unending trials of his past. Sure, we see something, and we gain the dimmest of glimpses into the futile need for confessional baptism, but by the next song we know nothing again.
Unfortunately, the album’s final third chokes on fumes. “Armour For a Broken Heart” is jerk-off filler, flexing its lame guitar throttle and repetitive, a-melodic vocal part to no result. “Kangaroo Heart” shows the same loss of melody. There’s a grunge and a grind to their need to carry on that you can almost admire, as though they too acknowledge that they’ve run out of steam and have nothing left to show or hide. But then the dullard’s closer “Pompeii” attempts the same faceless melody again, and the steam-heat the band built through its first two-thirds gasses out completely.
Still, there’s that crippling start. In those minutes, the ABO flaunts the same switchblade passions the White Stripes and Black Keys have managed more commercially but with similar results. At their best, The Archie Bronson Outfit makes music like they remember their rat-tails and play for new oblivions. Ignore your wife, join ‘em, and shake it.