Round about 2005, Dan McGee was reeling from the smeltdown of the excellent skizz-punk army, DC Snipers, for which he slung guitar and sung. While formulating what to do next, he got into a home demo trading thing with some Jersey pals who’d moved to North Carolina, eventually followed them there, wrapped his trash-punk aesthetics in metaphorical woodsy flannel and wound up with Spider Bags.
After three albums and ultimately finalizing a trio lineup circa 2012 and their last album, Shake My Head (Odessa), one might expect time and lazy, back porch livin’ to have turned that metaphorical flannel faded and maybe too comfy. Plus, as they were working on Frozen Letter, Spider Bags were also recording as the backing band for local bluesman Reese McHenry, which could add some greying streaks. But alas, they’ve not become comfy, just settled into a reliable songwriting groove that’s moving a little noisy again on this, one of the better, ripping, scruff-rock albums of the year.
I’m going to go ahead and make the leap and guess these guys are record collectors. And hence they might’ve been thinking about “sides” of a record, as the first four songs of this mini-LP are some of the most fervent, rocking tracks the band has released. The whirling dervish drums and sax midsection of the opener, Back With You Again In The World and the insistent, super-fuzz guitars of Summer Of ‘79 are great trashy transendance. Japanese Vacation has the ’60s frat-rock jangle of a fave Pebbles comp track with a stabby, stuttering ending.
The second half slows to shuffling, but not quite as drawlingly countrified as their previous woes-wiling numbers. Coffin Car has got a blurry, dark night-wandering aura, guitar echo and other swirling six strings in the background, talk of guns, describing an old car as “beautiful and pregnant,” then occasional sonic swells until the song builds up then crumbles down again, McGee yelling-to-mumbling, “I think I’m coming down.” And just when you think McGee will succumb to sadness, he musters up the will to fight back. “I’m tired over your love… again, again!” The band musters too, instruments revving up and down right in front of McGee. We Got Problems is wah-wah pedal, narco-boogie. And Eyes of Death rides off into a sunset of blinding feedback and stinging guitar leads.
McGee’s voice and lyrics do suitably crack and well up, making references to the past, asking loads of questions and generally being the thoughtful flannel folk singer time makes of many. So enjoy the rowdy ride down the bumpy road of garage rock’s backwoods while you can.