wanted to not have to use the words “Thurston Moore” in this review, but it’s just impossible. Awesome Color are on Ecstatic Peace, Moore’s label, and in the name-dropping, hair-flipping world of indie rock, that’s a big deal. It would be inaccurate to give him an absurd title like “The Godfather of Noise” or “The College Rock Shaman,” but it seems like everyone wants to kiss his ass anyway. In every rock documentary concerning punk rock, underground rock, noise rock, whatever, you’ll find Moore to be one of the people being interviewed, if not the go-to guy, the lumbering giant with all the know-how and credentials that those other rockers just don’t have. But he’s mellowed; his attitude has become attitood, a pathetic replacement for the once-refreshing aspect of his persona. The thing is, he’s gotten older and moved on, but he hasn’t really gone anywhere. You know why? Because he signed Awesome Color.
Awesome Color’s debut is a kick to the teeth, a rock album with enough beer-swigging adolescent nonchalance to last for days. There’s nothing original about the album. Hell, everything here’s been done before: The Stooges, Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, MC5. But the band does a sensational job in combining those sounds. Lead singer Derek Stanton is a cinch for Iggy Pop, so much that there are times when you could play Fun House and this album back-to-back and not be able to tell the difference between the two. This is certainly a criticism; but then you have to remember that Iggy sounded like The Troggs, who sounded like The Stones, and so on.
A redeeming factor is that Stanton also plays lead guitar, and a scorching one at that. One of the more impressive traits of Awesome Color is that they’re a trio, one with a steady rhythm section and a talented singer/guitarist. Allison Busch and Michael Troutman are a surprisingly solid and forceful rhythm section, but Stanton hits a double whammy in that he fulfills two fundamental roles. Opener “Grown” begins with a driving riff before Awesome Derek (as the band’s MySpace page refers to him) leers with the killer vocal, “Hear the sound / Feel it breakin’,” and then rips a simple, scorching solo.
Though Awesome Color do a perfect imitation of their influences’ sound and style, they also nail the attitude and approach. A fundamental reason that The Stooges and Sabbath appealed to teenagers both in the 70s and today is because they had negative energy. When I listen to Iggy, I see a bored kid sitting on a couch who just wants to go out and have a good time and will devote every ounce of strength in his body to make sure that happens. Awesome Color have that very characteristic—one that other garage rock imitators haven’t quite mastered.
The standout track here, “Free Man,” is a perfect example. Stanton sings, “Do what you want / Do what you please / Do it every day / And you’re just like me.” The lyrics look hilarious, but Awesome Derek sings it weary, jaded, and yet also impassioned and feverish. At first, the line seems slapdash and stupid, but it’s pulled off with swaggering cool because of what and how it’s said.
I’m not sure if Thurston Moore is a genius, a blowhard, or both, but Awesome Color is a step in the right direction. Be Your Own Pet might be Ecstatic Peace’s commercial bid, but Awesome Color is where the storm’s brewing: a melting pot of twisting, hip-shaking, fuzz-soaked, stoned, drunk, and dazed rock anthems. So what if Sonic Youth didn’t make a terrific garage record like they’re fans were hoping for? Awesome Color did, and just because I’ve heard it all before doesn’t mean I don’t wanna hear it again.