LOCKED IN Jackson, Ulmschneider, and MacDougall. Photo: LISA GOURLEY
Like most of us around here, 75orLess Records founder and Six Star General frontman Mark "Slick" MacDougall would like to put 2009 to bed. "It was just one bad thing after another for us this year," MacDougall told me, citing technical and financial snafus with their recently-released live disc Do You Want Them to Dance, Then They Will Remember You (26 tracks culled from various Rhody venues) and thunderous drummer Jay Almeida missing multiple SSG shows (Coma Coma's Dan Ulmschneider filled in admirably). But the blinding light at the end of the tunnel has arrived with their latest disc, Take Your Teeth Out, the band's best effort yet and a must-have for anyone raised on a healthy dose of Pavement and Archers of Loaf, along with just about everything released on Greg Ginn's SST label (particularly by MacDougall's man crush, Mike Watt). The post-punk veterans continue their steady live schedule, headlining 75orLess showcases almost every weekend at nooks like the Penalty Box, Bristol's Common Pub, and Club 201 downtown.
On a quiet Veterans Day in Newport, I've been invited to Summing Point Studio (managed by diePods bassist Scott Rancourt) to witness the Warren-based trio record Take Your Teeth Out. MacDougall has only one request — that I wait until noontime to arrive: "We'll start in the morning, and when we are fucking up it can get intense, but once we get going it should be entertaining to watch."
Sure enough, I walk in at noon to hear Slick barking, "Think 'Chesthair,' dammit! Jesus Christ, come on guys. 'Chesthair!' 'Chesthair!' " He's referring to "Chesthair Plus One" from their '07 release Already on One. The scene recalled a recent Six Star show at the Blackstone, where Slick's duct-taped bass strap finally gave way. Coma Coma's Eric Sampson ran onstage to assist but was unsuccessful, with MacDougall shouting at him mid-song, his bass literally bringing him to his knees. "See, Eric, now you know how we feel at practice," guitarist Kyle Jackson later said with a smile. When drummer Almeida had a throne issue later in the set, MacDougall shot an evil stare, offered and instantly tore into "Amperes Are Live," the opening gem from Spaceship to Planet Cookie, in manic double-time while staring at Almeida, who handled the raucous punk barrage with ease.
Seven of 11 tracks were finished in just two hours prior to my arrival, which surprised even the band. "These guys just bang 'em out, it's unbelievable," engineer Rancourt noted. The final product finds SSG peaking hard and heavy, from the monstrous opener "Half Flat" to their trademark two-minute drills "Blame Takes Names," "Thoughts In, Words Out," and "High or Hard." Their cover of Cat Power's "Metal Heart" is also included and worth the $7 alone. Jackson shines throughout the album, his forefoot getting a workout while stomping the wah-wah; his feedback-drenched chords hold their ground and careen around Slick's nimble grooves. And for all the locking of horns between MacDougall and Almeida, the rhythm section locks in on "Paint Throw" and "Landmine In a Landslide." Almeida is a savage, as anyone who has seen their set-closing cover of the Flaming Lips' "Jesus Shooting Heroin" can attest. The recording process remains the same, with Jackson layering some big guitar squalls and solos here and there and MacDougall making sense of his notepad while whipping up song titles on the fly.