Though garage rock never really went away, it’s not hard to feel like we’re living in the midst of a garage rock revival. The genre has expanded substantially in the last few years, the most prominent examples being the sweaty trifecta of records from Ty Segall in 2012, the continued gnarled dominance of Thee Oh Sees and the grunge-punk bliss of Wavves’ Afraid of Heights, released earlier this year. Those three bands in particular rose from the sunny vistas of the West Coast. However, the latest essential garage rock album to emerge this year is from an unlikely part of the country: Oxford, Mississippi.
The state has a rich tradition of garage rock excellence, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room in the history books for new chapters. Bass Drum Of Death is the brainchild of John Barrett, a snarling, riff-happy force of nugget-summoning nature. With Bass Drum Of Death, the group’s self-titled record, the Mississippi duo picks up right where they left off with 2011′s GB City. Barret, who favors the raunchy and fun aspects of punk, brings a touch of cartoonish glee to gritty sounds on display here. Even though the production values have improved since the band’s debut, this album is somehow louder, fuzzier and dirtier than the first (Barret recorded GB City in several home basement studios throughout Mississippi). Each track is loaded with banging drum parts and reverb-soaked guitar riffs that makes the album sound like it was recorded simply in a much nicer basement studio.
Barret has added an extra layer of depth to his songs both lyrically and sonically; this is mainly due to the addition of more instruments for this project. Unlike GB City, most tracks on Bass Drum Of Death have at least three instruments contributing to each song: guitar, drums and this time, bass. Tracks like “I Wanna Be Forgotten,” and “Shattered Me” really showcase the advancement of Barret’s writing. There are marks of increased ambition too: “Such A Bore,” which is a misleading title as it includes a two minute jam of psychedelic shredding, stretches out over four minutes and conjures images of the sun crashing down to Earth. Although GB City was powerful in its own way, the self-titled displays an impressive attention to detail that helps bring out some of the sound that was lacking in the group’s early work.
Back in April Bass Drum Of Death released a sparse, gorgeously-shot black-and-white video for “Shattered Me.” The video shows Barret driving to a casino, followed by a series of scenes showing him smoking joints, gambling and drinking whiskey on a bathroom floor while being showered with money. The video is a good representation of the album as a whole: decadent but ratty, indulgent but controlled, beautiful but scrappy. The record is a journey through a haze of reverb and scratchy guitar that could leave a sober person feeling completely stoned on music. There are worse ways to be alone.