Poisoned Candy Records
Holy thrash attack, Batman: a whopping 59 songs in 76 minutes from the north country’s most prolific hardcore band. Disgruntled Nation was always like the little brother of the Missoula punk scene (or maybe its inbred long-lost cousin), but it says a lot about the band that a couple of the big Missoula brothers passed through the lineup before the band quietly imploded in 2002. And talk about dedicated—the three original members (and usually a couple of friends) used to cram themselves into a tiny pickup with gear in tow, drive from Kalispell to Missoula, play a show, and head back the same night. Sometimes two or three times a week!
Discography rounds up almost everything these die-hards recorded in basements, empty bars and actual studios around Western Montana: three seven-inches, a couple self-released tapes, a CD and a good-sized handful of compilation tracks and outtakes. The Disgruntled version of the Montana state song alone is worth the ridiculously low $5 price of this CD.
DG started coming into its own around the time of the 2000 Beaded Marauder record (what a rad name!), a scalding hybrid of early Poison Idea and the band’s own style of lurching stop-start hardcore. Never lacking for pent-up energy, the Double Plus Good Duck Speak CD that followed a year later finally served them with truly scabrous (instead of just shitty) production. Tinny car speakers never sounded so good. (Andy Smetanka)
I love it when albums include little notes (often printed with the lyrics) to clue you in to the inspiration behind, or significance of, certain songs in a musician’s repertoire—but without getting too purple or tedious or explaining everything to death. Est. 1973, the debut album from Helena guitar/bouzouki/mandolin duo (now a live trio) Watercarvers Guild, is full of such notes, varying in tenor from the homey (“Written one afternoon as I prepared to uproot my family from the old neighborhood”) to the ponderous (“We have our responsibilities as beings endowed with language”). An interesting riposte, there, to the Laurie Anderson epigram: “Language is a virus from outer space.”
Writing palatable songs around sometimes whimsical lyrics can be as difficult as writing humorous rock music; it takes barely a misstep to render the results unbearable. There’s some awfully purple poetry on Est. 1973, but the father-son Watercarvers (Darrell Casey and son David, born the year implied by the album title) send it down with enough sweet harmony and fretboard sparkle to relieve the lyrical sugar-shock. (Watercarvers Guild plays Thursday, Feb. 19, at 8 PM at the Crystal Theater.) (Andy Smetanka)
Chapter III: A Girl Called Nature
There are several interesting things going on here, but none of them at the same time, nor, indeed, very often at the right time. Parts of A Girl Called Nature have an appealingly spacey, Gong-like elf-rock quality to them, while others are daubed with jangly guitar, flamenco guitar and even some country comfort. I don’t know what the deal is with these guys, but they sound like they’ve completely forsworn all musical influences except for the three or four cassettes they could carry to their mountain lair in a ditty bag mostly full of Bible comics.
The big problem is the weird, pinched, nasal, constipated and most of all unavoidable vocals. These are a bizarre form of musical torture because they rarely let up long enough for you to forget about them, and they make all the lyrics sound like one long sea-chanty as performed by some pubescent folkie cousin of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickenson. Which might be just the ticket on, say, the song that sounds like Blue Öyster Cult covering Nirvana (“Modified Sunday School”—there’s also one that sounds like Nirvana covering Blue Öyster Cult covering Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet). But with few exceptions, the vocals are gratingly consistent and consistently grating throughout, and while they piqued my interest for the first few seconds, after the first few songs they pretty much killed it dead. Valiant effort, guys, but doesn’t somebody in the band have a brother or something? (B.R.O.O.M. plays Wednesday, Feb. 25, at The Other Side.) (Andy Smetanka)
California Guitar Trio
The First Decade
Inside Out U.S.
The appeal of this 19-song anthology goes way beyond the confines implied by “acoustic guitar trio,” mellow enough to snag the easy-listening guitar devotees but hard-edged enough to please acolytes of nü-prog like Don Caballero and Breadwinner. It’s the kind of record that turns Iron Maiden fans on to Ry Cooder and slack-key guitar and vice versa. One song here sounds like Cooder’s “Borderline,” minus the Harry Dean Stanton vocals. Then again, the next one sounds like the Fucking Champs. And then there’s one that evokes a mental picture of a bleary-eyed Joe Walsh reenacting Crossroads with John McLaughlin, “Rocky Mountain Way” versus Shakti. And that’s before Ralph Stanley shows up to break the tie.
The California Guitar Trio specializes in the short and sweet, miniature suites and pinpoint acoustic workouts with arpeggios blazing. The compositions on The First Decade careen from klezmer to cod-calypso to 12-bar blues faster than you can say Friday Night in San Francisco. These three guys can pull a Texas two-step out of a tarantella or a foggy mountain breakdown out of a “Flight of the Bumblebee” in a hot second, without spilling a drop. This stuff must be 10 times as amazing live, and it’s pretty darned amazing to begin with. (The California Guitar Trio performs Saturday, Feb. 21, at 8 PM in the Hamilton Performing Arts Center of Hamilton High School.) (Andy Smetanka)