Bass Drum of Death sounds like California, 40 years ago, which in contemporary California terms is swag.
The groups newest lo-fi album, GB City, is reminiscent of a band ripping out hard, fast chord progressions and fuzzy surfer punk vocals over quick cymbal crash-laden beats, all coming from a garage in 1970s Santa Monica complete with an emptied out pool filled with shaggy-haired skaters, “Lords of Dogtown” style.
The notion that a band can bring forth such vivid imagery with songs that don’t even describe said scenarios probably sounds odd. At least until you listen to the record. Whenever a band becomes emblematic of an epoch or is descriptive of an entire subculture, such efforts ought to be praised.
Bass Drum of Death is among several duos doing the same thing. The Black Keys are reprising a blues era that has come and gone, and Tennis’ music is best described as reminiscent of the Northeastern U.S. sailing scene. Bass Drum of Death is next in the vein of such duos featuring only a drummer and guitarist-vocalist in true minimalist fashion.
Granted, the record isn’t flawless and has its fair share of setbacks. The repetitiveness of many of the songs comes to mind. These things become more permissible when considering the fact that achieving a technical merit wasn’t the goal of the album. For what it lacks in those categories, it makes up in energy and entertainment value. GB City is simply a fun record that you can dance or even mosh to. Do what you want with it. Chill out by the pool or play it at a house party. Even play GB City out of a boom box while you break glass in your backyard.
The album doesn’t totally lack depth. Its songs cover a wide variety of topics, including panic attacks, trying to make it with religious girls and stealing stuff, to name a few.
Like most lo-fi garage punks, the vocals are low production and chaotic. Gists and thematic elements are noticeable in the occasional instances of John Barrett’s intelligible utterances, but a clean line-by-line analysis of the lyrics isn’t easy to do.
That’s not the point anyway. GB City is really DIY in the sense that it sounds really homemade in all its fuzzy, garage glory and in the sense that it’s whatever you make of it. That’s punk rock.
The album is released, appropriately, on the cusp of summer, as anything so indicative of a sunny California day should be. So go get it and do what you want with it, because that’s the point.