Portland, Maine trio Muddy Ruckus call their music “stomp and swing punk.” They’re bringing their uneasy guy/girl harmonies and unique blend of string-band swing, Tom Waits-inspired circus rock and oldtimey blues to the small room at the Rockwood on Sept 27 at 9 PM. They’ve also got a stylistically diverse, carnivalesque debut album streaming at Bandcamp.
The opening track, Crawl on the Ceiling sets the tone, a brisk noir swing romp fueled by Brian Durkin’s steady bass pulse, Erika Stahl’s torchy vocal harmonies enhancing the darkly phantasmagorical ambience. The band work their way up from skeletal to anthemic on Come with Us, lowlit by Marc Chillemi’s torchy muted trumpet. Ruby Red rises from a doomed, slow-burning electrified minor-key blues groove to a frantic sprint to the finish line, frontman/guitarist Ryan Flaherty channeling pure desperation with an unhinged solo.
Mother Mud blends oldschool 60s soul with a string band sound from forty years previously, driven by Phil Bloch’s violin. The scampering swing shuffle Bulldozer will resonate with anyone who can’t wait to get out of the “shitty town” where they grew up, as Flaherty puts it. “I don’t need your family money or drugs, ’cause I’m high on all the lies I told myself as I grew up,” he drawls sarcastically.
Butterfly Bullets adds a little cynical hip-hop edge to Waits-ish noir blues. Worse Things mashes up lazy indie rock and oldtime blues: it’s a kiss-off to an evil boss and dayjob drudgery in general. “There’s no romance that compares to the rug that’s pulled out from under your prayers,” Flaherty insists.
Convalescent Angel builds from creepy oldtime gospel ambience to anthemic menace. Infinite Repair returns to the noir swing, with a neat, flatpicked guitar solo that’s part Appalachian, part Romany jazz. Lightning, a slow waltz, mines an oldtime fire-and-brimstone vernacular anchored by Durkin’s stygian bowing. Stahl sings Bag of Bones, a dancing, dixieland-flavored swing tune. The album’s final track, On and On, is a loping, hypnotic rock nocturne: thematically, it’s out of place, but it’s not bad.