Brilliant, Menacing Americana Rock from Mud Blood & Beer

by delarue

Mud Blood & Beer were one of the best bands in NYC’s late, lamented Lakeside Lounge scene. They play what’s essentially an update on the 80s “paisley underground” sound that was rabidly popular on college radio, a darkly psychedelic, lyrically-driven blend of country twang, electric Neil Young rasp and Velvets stomp. They’ve got a new album, The Sweet Life just out and an album release show on April 13 at 8 PM at the Bitter End. The band has two first-rate songwriters and brilliant lead guitarists in Jon Glover and Jess Hoeffner, who share share an edgy, restless unease. Anger, danger and black humor pervade this album. They make a good team, Glover playing menacing southwestern gothic Steve Wynn to Hoeffner’s somewhat more eclectic, straight-up rocking Dan Stuart. With layer after layer of jangle, clang and roar, guitars and vocals up front, Stephen Swalsky’s bass and Stephen Sperber’s drums up just enough to keep everything rolling, the album’s sonics are better than most vinyl records made these days. Count this as one of the best of 2013 by a mile.

Glover’s Nasturtiums opens the album and sets the tone, a grimly bitter, minor-key, backbeat-driven desert rock anthem that builds to a savage guitar solo, like the Dream Syndicate’s Karl Precoda in especially focused mode. “Silence like an echo from a tomb…for forty days I wandered in the wilderness, returned to find nasturtiums in bloom,” Glove intones. Lost, by Hoeffner is a briskly catchy tune that evokes 80s legends True West, gleaming new wave blended with  luscious layers of Americana guitars. Another Hoeffner tune, You Wanted to Be Misunderstood, evokes the Long Ryders with its galloping, electrified bluegrass vibe and an all-too-brief, blistering Glover solo.

A couple of Glover tunes come next. Little Black Heart takes a spiraling hook that Tobin Sprout could have written and sets it to snarling, twangy rock, totally late-period Dream Syndicate, a band these guys evoke even more savagely on the slow, creepy Corner of His Eye. Hoeffner’s smoldering fuzztone ambience and then a feral, jagged solo highlight this sinister tale of dirty dealing and its potential consequences.

Matches & Gasoline – a Hoeffner number- evokes a steady Green on Red feel, followed by Glover’s snarling title track, which with its offhandedly brutal, bluesy solo wouldn’t be out of place on the Dream Syndicate’s classic Medicine Show album. Hoeffner’s See the Light could be an early True West song, while Glover’s briskly shuffling Be Still amps up the rocking Bakersfield country vibe.

One of Those Days – another Glover tune – returns to a savage Steve Wynn/Neil Young ambience with its menacing midtempo sway, cruel minor-key bridge and dismissive lyrics. Tell Me I’m Wrong, by Hoeffner, could be the Replacements, while Break Your Heart, with its shivery vibroslap sonics, is the most psychedelic track here. The album closes with Testimony, a murder ballad, opening with a tongue-in-cheek ELO reference and snaking its way through a series of increasingly agitated Glover solos to its doomed ending. More bands should be making music like this. In addition to this album, Mud Blood & Beer has their 2009 debut and also the album by Hoeffner’s side project Crooked Highway available as free downloads.

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