Monday, January 31, 2011
Roadsaw - S/T
This is an album that had to be made, and Roadsaw was just the band to do it.
Let me explain. Every week it seems, around the Ripple HQ, Pope and I get into a fevered conversation about how America is poised to embrace real rock again. With the schmaltz producers running out of retreads to retread, it seems that there’s a burning for something honest, something raw, something real. Along those lines, Small Stone, with its stellar line-up of bands like Lo-Pan, Sun Gods in Exile, and Suplecs, leads the way, and others like Hydro-Phonics, Tee-Pee, and even our own label, Ripple Music, with bands like Stone Axe, Grifter, Mighty High and Iron Claw, are poised and ready to pounce at a moment’s notice to unleash a fury of real rock onto the world. Satisfying the hunger, feeding the craving.
But before that can happen, we need a bridge album. An album fully steeped in the heaviness, grittiness, and muscle of real rock, but crafted with such a perfect eye for melody and--dare I say it—pop hooks, that it can capture the general public’s ears. Threatening and, oh so violent, but deep in its melody, refined in its choruses, and smooth as an iced road in a Boston winter. Dirty, but clean enough to actually break onto the airwaves.
I was a big fan of See You In Hell, their 2008 album which I immediately placed on to my best of list for that year. Expect to find the self-titled Roadsaw on this year’s list.
Don’t let any mention of that awful P-word (pop) dissuade you from spinning this beast. And I do mean beast. Roadsaw hangs deep in the water of heavy like an overburdened barge weighed down under the immensity of its riffs. Fuzz, power, gruff, it’s all here. But so is something else. I don't mean "pop" in the sense of sell-out. Heaven forbid! I mean "pop" in the sense of a killer accessibility, pop in the sense that you could play this album for someone who isn't already addicted to heavy rock and within moments you could get his head doing the man nod and her ass doing the feminine groove.
Since their last album, the cats of Roadsaw (founding members, Tim Catz (bass) and Craig Riggs (vocals), and guitarist Ian Ross and drummer Jeremy Hemond (also of Cortez and Black Thai) have matured as straight-forward songwriters in some sort of exponential way, allowing space to creep into their songs, passages of subtlety, even moments of jazzy breeziness, all layer upon some seriously catchy riffs and H1N1-infectious melodies. The whole package just screams "we’re still heavy folks, fuck we’re heavy, but we’re so much more than that."
With rock radio caught in a chasing-their-own-tailspin, salivating at the return of Velvet Revolver, or AudioslaveCreedAlterBridgeNickleBoringSomething, this is the album that should creep into the playlists. Like a midnight stalker, sneaking into the bedroom of the unsuspecting, Roadsaw should insinuate itself onto the airwaves. Get the nation rocking again.
From the first cut, we’re off and running. “Dead and Buried,” features a simply filthy guitar tone with its edges totally obscured by fuzz. Yet, somehow, it’s still clean at its heart. The riff repeats and builds on itself in a fashion not too dissimilar from “Daytripper,” by the Beatles . . . er . . . that is if the Beatles never shaved, tattooed skulls on their deltoids, and draped their brass-knuckled fingers around the handles of a Harley. Still, the point is there. As heavy as that riff is, it’s still totally accessible. Add to that a thick, but melodic vocal performance by Riggs, and a chorus that should have every trucker singing as they head out I-10 and we got ourselves a candidate for our first heavy radio hit. “Weight in Gold,” fuzzes the tone even more and ups the adrenaline a thousand fold, coming at you like some Feurezeug attack. This is a fuzz-punk assault all the way through the impossibly scuzzed Ross guitar solo to its defining moment, 2:36 in. Sudden tempo change, bass and drum lock into a groove that wouldn’t be out of place in a late night underground beat club, while the guitar squeaks through a tastefully frenetic flurry. Then the riff heaviness comes back, leading right into the monster blitz of “Thinking of Me,” and again, we’re off and running. Heavy? Oh, yeah. But clear enough that this cut should appeal to anyone listening to The Boneyard on XM and wanting to hear something new. Once again, Riggs outdoes himself on the vocal here, keeping it thick-throated, but accessible.
“Long in the Tooth,” follows suit, marrying devastatingly heavy riffs, panzer-division bass, and Stuka attack drumming with a melody sweet enough to suck in the ears of the uninitiated. Add a cool southern swagger to the vocal and we got radio hit number 2. My choice for number 3 is “The Getaway,” which rides a frenetic riff straight down the throat of its knock-em-out chorus.
Sure, some fans of only the heaviest and skuzziest history of Roadsaw might feel that the album is a touch too polished. The impossibly slow and epic, “Electric Heaven,” may appease them a touch, with its Clutch-meets Sabbath bad trip vibe. But this album isn’t about appeasing the old fans. It’s about breaking ground with the new ones. Keeping the past alive while screaming and kicking the masses in the teeth. It’s about breaking new ground in the acceptance of the heavy and tilting the planetary axis a bit towards the equator of real rock.
It’s an album that had to be made, and Roadsaw was just the band to do it.