Friday, September 10, 2010

Bloodshot Gamblers - Pain & Other Simple Pleasures


You know what strikes you most about "Pain & Other Simple Pleasures" when you first put it on? That they’ve gotten smart and turned the guitars DOWN to rock harder and rock more interestingly. "Echos In My Head/ My Broken Record" kicks off with the sweet sampled sound of the needle dropping in to the groove, the guitar playing a repeated echoing figure, classic 1970’s rock, and then we’re thrust into the late 1990’s, overprocessed guitar turned into complete digital fuzz, all trace of vinyl obliterated, and then we’re thrown in a mix of the two and the Bloodshot Gamblers have staked their ground. They’ll keep one foot on the turntable, Molly Hatchet scratched vinyl be damned, and another on the CD and use whatever they damn like.  Just like the chorus, singing Over and over again/ Cycle never ends/ on and on/ my broken records spinning.
Who the hell is singing about a broken record in 2010?

"Runaway Ghost" is a smart mixing of guitar sounds again, while the chugging guitars keep up a slightly off metered tempo under the lyrics, the menace stays constant: Run baby run/your ghost will come back/tonight/goodbye. Tim David Kelly whispers “Goodbye” as the rhythm guitars is suddenly panned into a 10 watt Gorilla practice amp while the ghost of Gene Simmons kicks in for the backing vocals.

In fact, the echo of early Kiss can be heard in echoes of some of the songs, and in their turning the guitars down. Instead of hearing an amp turned up to 11 and run through Pro Tools, we’re hearing a sound closer in places to Dressed To Kill, when the technology was simpler, and we could still hear the strings of Ace Frehley’s Gibson. Tim and Brian mix together like Gene and Paul in the background vocals of "The Surface of Hell," which might have been written to pair along with "Sweet Pain & Other Simple Pleasures" and "Firehouse". "Dust in the Corner" blasts out the gate with a classic little riff, but knows to slow it down and throw in some quirkly little fills under the lyrics: If youre trying to kill me/tighten up the screws/cause without the torture/I don’t know what to do. But then 2:10 into the song, they move into a minor key breakdown that recalls a bit of the mighty Alice in Chains. It’s a sweet transition that keeps the song rocking with the sonic push and pull from major to minor key and back.

There is an interesting left turn into a power ballad with an acoustic guitar "Before It Is Too Late" that has whiskey and modern country at its core more than Poison but there is a touch of the hair spray about it. (The 11th track "Touch and a Smile" shares the same roots.) But "Start Again" plugs back into the amps and takes the rock back but relies more on the vocal melody and subtle, chugging guitars to worm its way into your ears. They bring the tempo and volume and start to layer the guitars as the song builds up two sets of lyrics in.

Tim David Kelly and Brian Anderson combined over six months to make a record that sounds both fresh and classic, and they’ve done it partly by being really smart with their sounds. They wear their influences as just that: influences that don’t straightjacket them, but given them interesting places to jump off. While the record sounds effortless, its worth noting that a tremendous amount of work and smarts went into making it sound so damn easy. "Spinning My Wheels", the 10th track is a perfect example of a song with some great little touches that elevate it above average. Certainly it opens with a riffing guitar might have been come up with between the 4th and 5th beer, but the shimmering, flanged arpeggios under the lyrics are subtle and not nearly as ordinary as they might have been. Where a flashy solo might have been is a quiet moment where the song gets to rest before building back up to another chorus. It’s a nice choice.

"A Brand New Day" closes the album off with a dash of shameles power pop that could be some Tommy Bolan and Sweet mixed with the Gin Blossoms. Does the gum that comes in Bazooka stay fresh for over 40 years? Because it certainly has aged well given that these shoes have been walked in so many damn times. Tim and Brian clearly have a fun time with this, so you’re willing to excuse them their moment.

Pain & Other Simple Pleasures is a great little record, full of inventive and rocking songs that sound like you should have heard them before but, damn it, you haven’t. Don’t deny yourself the chance to catch up on your nostalgia.

Wishing that I’d heard this on vinyl – the fearless rock iguana

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