Fronted by Kirkpatrick Thomas, formerly of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spindrift play a reverb-drenched, surrealistically stagy mix of Lee Hazelwood-esque spaghetti western rock laced with punk-era influences from the Gun Club all the way back to the Cramps. Thomas is a connoisseur of desert rock and can’t resist employing every trope in the book in what seems to be a lovingly satirical, playfully Tarantino-esque take on it. Thomas’ baritone can be on the campy side; once in awhile he reaches for a Mark Sinnis-style menace. The band is at Glasslands at around 11 PM on Nov 8, playing songs from their latest album Ghost of the West, a mix of originals and wry updates on popular Old West tunes from across the decades. Spindrift are very good live, and as you might expect, a lot more psychedelic than they are in the studio.
Some of the new songs are cartoonish: Buffalo Dream, which sounds like the early Gun Club channeling their inner Indian tribe; Cowpoke Cowpoke, a cartoonish faux-noir cowboy waltz; and a wryly deadpan version of Blood on the Saddle. They do When I Was a Cowboy in super lo-fi mode, shooting for a retro 20s 78 RPM ambience, then make psychedelia out of it. Thomas goes into crooner mode forCool Water, its swaying Apache vibe fleshed out with layers of ominously jangling guitars and Sasha Vallely’s lushly lurid vocal harmonies.
The mariachi-pop Ballad of Paladin, “a knight without honor in a savage land,” sounds like Johnny Horton with more punk production values. King sings the elegantly arranged Hanging Me Tonight with a stoic sadness, while Thomas’ faux Johnny Cash slapback vocals on Gunfighter are irresistibly over-the-top. The western swing-flavored Wanderers of the Wasteland is much the same.
But the best songs here are the instrumentals. The epic Matador & the Fuzz begins by keeping the mariachi rock vibe going with flamencoish acoustic guitar, moody brass and a robust choir of voices, and builds to an explosive cop-car bolero. Mudhead works a briskly guitar-fueled, Romany jazz-tinged pulse. And the funniest track here might be Paniolos on the Range, adding bizarre gamelan touches over its loping Tex-Mex beat; it wouldn’t be out of place in the Tribecastan catalog. The album winds up with Navajo Trail, part rockabilly, part 50s lounge pop and part punk, and then a take of Ghost Riders in the Sky that offers a tip of the pitch-black cowboy hat to the Ninth House version.