Steve Wilson. On music.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

J. Roddy Walston and the Business Rock!

J. Roddy Walston and the Business - s/t (Vagrant)

"Boys from Baltimore rock like their lives depend on it, and they probably do."

How to describe J. Roddy Walston and the Business?

They do play some rock ‘n’ roll. Big ol’ rock ‘n’ roll, too, damn it. It’s too crazed and punk-tinged to be “classic rock,” and it’s insufficiently parochial to qualify under the current definitions of garage-rock; too much retro-garage stuff is either too nice (mannered) or too naughty (crappy playing and recording=authenticity).

This music has roots, but it sounds like it blew right out of the barroom – fresh and ready. Frankly, Walston and the Business sound like a train wreck. Jerry Lee Lewis could be the engineer. Slade, AC/DC and T. Rex are drunk in the dining car. Led Zeppelin is high and staring down the tracks from the observation deck at the back of the train. They don’t see the crash coming, an approaching head-on featuring two cars, careening in opposite directions – one’s filled with members of the Replacements and the Stones (rock critic approved); the other is driven by Kid Rock, and Black Oak Arkansas are partying in the back seat. Yup, this Southern rock dynamo is not a straight line Pitchfork cinch. Hipster alert – if you’re scared of beautiful, vulgar rock ‘n’ roll music beware: Scurry home to your Bon Iver and Animal Collective records, now!

Emerging from this glorious train wreck, J. Roddy and his gang sound like kids who ran from the Baptist church, but still full of fervor they are ready to blow the roof off any dump they play.

I can’t tell what the hell J. Roddy is on about all of the time. It’s down to the bone stuff – living, loving, and drinking. He dances on the proverbial edge (“Brave Man’s Death”), and parties (“Don’t Break the Needle” with its dirty double entendre) to be sure. On “Don’t Get Old” Walston implores his ladylove to (not) do exactly that. Next, he launches into a roadhouse stomper called “I Don’t Want to Hear” which mixes the band’s Zeppelin II stomp with ‘c’mon everybody’ vocals straight outta Springsteen and his love for Gary U.S. Bonds. Throughout, Walston pounds the ivories (a genuine piano) like a man possessed. Logan Davis (bass) and Steve Colmus (drums) approximate the Jones-Bonham tandem beautifully, while guitarist Billy Gordon lets fly like Ariel Bender in Mott the Hoople.

J. Roddy Walston and his boys practically defy criticism. This is music for driving too fast in your death-to-the-environment mobile. Not that they sound like Kings of Leon, but they provide a lot (rather than a little) of what those preacher’s boys promised on their first album, way back when they sounded like avatars of a new suck-free Southern rock, before they started dating models and dreaming of U2. That promise was that the rough beast that blew out of the American south ecstatic and guilty, black and white, sacred and sexy would never die. If J. Roddy Walston and the Business are any indication, that great beast still roars.

Reverberating: 9.0