Slick Weave, the Ruler

The Raging Main are a late-night party
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  August 9, 2006

RAGING RULERS: At the heart of the storm
Have you heard that new(ish) Raconteurs album? Wow. The songs can be repetitive in a Police kind of way, but the sound is so amazingly right now and immediate that Jack White could sing the phone book and be entertaining. Also, it sounds like it was recorded in my dirt-floor basement on the cassette four-track I got for my 15th birthday (of course, I didn’t actually get a four-track for my 15th birthday — I just wish I did). As lo-fi goes, it beats the pants off Pavement and offers a reminder of the rock basics: guitars, bass, drums, maybe a little keyboard action, and a frontman completely unafraid of making a fool of himself.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying former 6gig bassist-turned-frontman Weave is Jack White. He doesn’t have half the charisma, but no one does, so that’s fine. What he and the rest of his three pieces in Ruler of the Raging Main do have, however, is a similar feel for the heart of the rock song, the driving force that makes any lyric part to an anthem, a kick-you-in-the-face-and-make-you-like-it swagger.

And with Marc Bartholomew and his Bandsaw Recordings, the Main’s first album also has a lo-fi aesthetic that’s hard not to love.

Are you tired of everything coming out of your speakers sounding like it was just rubbed raw with a polishing rag? Sick of shiny sounds so bright they hurt your eyes? Then check out a good dose of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Death” (with huge points for using both apostrophes there to indicate both missing letters). “Rock and roll makes noise,” Weave notes, employing a British kind of affect (seriously, is that the Monkees influencing him at times?) that seems to be his standard delivery. This tune is a crush of noise. The bass (played by former Hot Dog Tom Abercrombie) and rhythm guitar parts pound out a 4/4 beat with Ric Loyd’s drums at close to 200 bpm, sitting for equal time on three ascending plateaus of pitch. But Weave doesn’t spit out his vocals trying to keep up, instead choosing a drawn-out delivery that borrows from psychedelia, extending the final syllable of every line and bending the note. When the fuzzed-out guitar-solo track drops in for a gut shot, you’re likely to stick your chin out and ask for another.

Best of all, Ruler gives melody every opportunity for mingling with this stinking morass (appropriate considering the recent death of Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett, to whom the Rulers owe some debt, and don’t take “stinking morass” as anything but a compliment). Weave even reaches for a falsetto at one point in “Rock.” Heck, “Weight of American Life” might as well be a cross of Oasis and Stone Temple Pilots, a grungy five-note rhythm burst introducing a gritty hammer-on/pull-off whine and Weave just about having a champagne supernova in the sky. “You’re the One” is catchy like ’60s vamp. I close my eyes and see shifting colors and bellbottom pants as Weave’s processed vocals wash over me like the light of a lava lamp. If it wasn’t for the clean, almost-alt-country guitar solo, the guitar wash might be enough to elicit flashbacks.

Look, there are songs called “Hey Babe” and “Bitch Whiskey” on this album, so don’t go looking for art, but if you have any penchant of fist-shaking to loud music accompanied by a hard buzz, you must have this album, and you’ll find yourself some songs for indulging the next morning’s hangover, too.

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Stock up: Dead End Armory’s first release has firepower
Talk about disappointment. Half the town was fairly wetting themselves over this Dead End Armory band and when I heard their track on the Cat & Mouse Records compilation last year I found it clunky and stale. Poor man’s alt-country, really.

Luckily, the group’s self-titled EP debut is far superior. Here we get a feel for John Wesley Hartley’s winsome vocals and I don’t dislike his name being so Dylan as much. Bassist Leslie Deane’s supporting vocals recall Seekonk’s Sarah Ramey. The last two minutes of “Vicious Cycle” sound like a completely different song from the first four minutes, but when it ramps up it’s thrilling instead of jarring (though you may check at least once to see if maybe two tracks got blended together when you ripped the song to iTunes).

“Pirate” is the only song on the album clocking in at radio length, but it’s also a logical single, so that makes sense. The backing rolls like Harpswell Sound’s “Ride,” the instrumental number of their newest album, and Hartley half-slurs verses that sound like secrets. What a great contrast with the sprawling “Serpentine Frame” that follows, where producer Frank Hopkins captures a haunting sound to make you forget the pedestrian strum pattern from the acoustic guitar and even tosses in some feedback to make sure nothing gets too sweet.

Will Oldham and the Magnolia Electric Company and Red House Painters make a similar mix of down-in-the-mouth indie/country/rock and Dead End Armory aren’t quite moving beyond those forebears, but this disc clearly announces the presence of another serious contributor to the genre they’ve helped establish.
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