Newport’s rock royalty

The diePods — straight outta the City by the Sea
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 21, 2009

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ROCK DIEHARDS The diePods.

If 75orLess Records CEO (and Six Star General bassist) Mark MacDougall decided to host an East Bay Desert Sessions, the diePods would be the 3 am headliner. The Warren-based label continues to accrue a serious roster of rock talent, and the self-titled debut by Newport-based quintet comes in as a late entry for local rock album of the year. The official CD release party goes down this weekend at the Blackstone, with top-shelf help from 75orLess standouts von Doom, the Propellers, and Six Star. "Trust me, these guys are sick," MacDougall emphatically told me following a recent Six Star show, and he has since added the diePods on just about every 75orLess showcase through the end of the year.

"Newport has always had it's own scene, from Vicious Circle to Verbal Assault, and those bands never really gave a rat's ass about what was popular in Providence," MacDougall said. "The diePods fit that category." Mostly in their late 30s, these guys and this album certainly are not out to win over the hearts of Phoenix or Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective fans; it's more for dudes pounding beers and shooting stick through the night. No keyboards or bullshit knob-twiddling posturing here, just some retro thunder in the form of sludgy chords and monster rhythms chasing down lead singer Mark Janes, who at times evokes the throaty howl of Dave Grohl. The band boasts members and alumni ("Newport's rock royalty," as MacDougall says) from One Ton Shotgun, Benny Sizzler, and Brunt Of It and, while bassist Scott Rancourt and guitarist Dave Wall are also wrapping up a new record with local rock veterans the Masons, Rancourt insists the diePods should not be filed under "side project."

"A lot of members have other projects going on and we all like to stay busy musically, but the diePods is the focal point right now," Rancourt told me. He also works the boards at Newport's Summing Point Studio and just wrapped up what he calls "a monster album" from locals Coma Coma, set for release on 75orLess in early 2010.

MacDougall is well-aware of my sonic sweet spot for '90s indie rock as well as all things Josh Homme, so when he cross-referenced Kyuss and Queens as well as the first Foo Fighters album (along with vintage rockers Thin Lizzy and T. Rex), I assumed he was blowing a cumulus cloud of smoke up my ass. But four tracks into the dozen cuts on the eponymous debut, I was hooked. If you dig local must-see rock acts like VulGarrity and Six Star, then the diePods will hover in your wheelhouse. An upcoming Halloween show at Billy Goode's in Newport may also serve as reference, with the diePods scheduled to perform an all-Zeppelin set.

The skanky guitar jabs on "Can I Feel Sad" recalls Shudder To Think or even Jesus Lizard, preceding the album's most entertaining cut, "Waiting." This one could fit comfortably between "I'll Stick Around" and "Alone and Easy Target" from the Foo Fighters' '95 debut, warm tremolo eventually receding into a big, uptempo radio-ready riff. Aside from two breakneck-punk cuts later in the album, the diePods stay the course with a coolly confident edge, from the opening "Shedemon" to the seven-minute-plus closer, "In the Thick." If rock has gotten a little too wussified for you lately, consider picking up the diePods debut and prepare to have your face melted.

THE DIEPODS SIX STAR GENERAL VON DOOM THE PROPELLERS | The Blackstone, 1005 Main Street, Pawtucket | Friday, October 23 @ 9 pm | 401.726.2181 | $5

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