GUYS' GUYS Sun Gods in Exile.
There's something in rock and roll that's tied up with those hetero-stereo male traits of bravado, carnal sexuality, and toughness, from Elvis's hips to Jimmy Page's tight pants to Lemmy Kilmister's grizzled face. It's not surprising that as those traits have gone out of fashion, so has rock and roll, replaced and fractured by the teenage-bounce of pop-punk, introspection of emo, irony of indie, and the feel-good sensitivity of the string band revolution.
Look at the sensitive James Bond we have now. McDreamy is a doctor, not a lawman. All the quarterbacks wear Italian suits nowadays. Find a rock band on the radio.
Christ, I think it's illegal to show chest hair on major-network television now.
If any musical genre carries the masculine torch it's hip-hop (all the metal guys are math nerds now), but even bitches-and-hoes hip-hop is giving way to ironic underground rappers and dance-pop Timberlake.
That's why Sun Gods in Exile feel like an indulgence from the very first notes, a grimy electric rhythm guitar solely in the right channel, of Thanks for the Silver. Like whiskey before noon or a quickie in a bathroom stall.
Done this well, maybe it will catch on. Heavy guy-ness is making something of a comeback, after all, in current touchstones like the downright bestial Game of Thrones and the every-man-for-himself (even the women) of the Walking Dead. Heck, even Kevin Spacey gets sex scenes in House of Cards.
"I know I'm not a young man," sings frontman Adam Hitchcock in the 7:35 title track, "but I've never felt old before." Maybe the best part of realizing you're not young anymore is the discovery that there's no need to try to be something you're not, or be in such a goddamn hurry all the time.
Sun Gods are comfortable in their skin and never in hurry. On this ballad, Tony D'Agostino (a/k/a Tony Vegas) brings us a reserved solo, with a paucity of extended notes, and Hitchcock is all optimism for his discovery: "It's been a long, cold winter/Thought that it would never thaw."
Winter is a common theme, threatening long nights and promising trouble, but always on the defensive from an onslaught of repeating riffs. Sun Gods haven't played a hometown gig since they released the record last year, either, so here's hoping their return signals and end to all this snow and a quickly arriving summer.
What better time for fast cars ("Hammer Down"), tough living ("Broken Bones"), and the type of rock and roll where you can't necessarily make out the words, but you get the general idea ("Moonshine"). The last is full of Alex Lifeson guitar run-ups and a wah-drenched lead from D'Agostino that he hints at early and then full-on jams for about two minutes into the finish.
I don't think it's hyperbole to say, in fact, that D'Agostino has emerged as an important guitar player, with great taste and some inventiveness. Sure, the songs as a whole are going to bring to mind everything from "Dream On" Aerosmith ("Smoke and Fire," especially) to "Jealous Again" Black Crowes ("Climb Down"), but there's nothing by-the-numbers here and "Since I've Been Home" is a first-tier song, with a huge singalong as a close out that just goes and goes until you wish it would never stop.