Saturday, September 18, 2010

It's a rare, and good, day indeed when I wrap my ears around a contemporary rock 'n' roll combo who make me stand up and take notice. The Brooklyn four-piece known as Endless Boogie, for this month, is that band. Formed all the way back in 2001, they're a group I'd heard of many times before, mistakenly assuming them to be "just another hipster band from Brooklyn" (w/ possible moustaches, tape-label connections and fixed-gear bikes), and hence I paid them no mind. It was only when I heard a track of theirs on the radio back in 2008, and then managed to scam a free copy of the album from a friend who worked at Shock (who licensed their Focus Level album for Australia), that I realised all my previously-held assumptions regarding Endless Boogie were a crock.
I flogged that album for a good month or more, though for whatever reason never blogged about it nor spoke about it to friends. And then just last week, I heard on the radio (same station, same show: take a guess) the opening track, the 10-minute blues-psych meisterwerk, "Empty Eye", from their brand-new full-lengther, Full House Head. For the first 30 seconds I mistook it for a Junior Kimbrough number (the similarities are pretty uncanny) and immediately pricked up my ears, curious that someone was playing the guy on the radio in 2010 (that'd be a good thing), but when the Jagger-like vocals came barking out over the minimalist, blues-rock shuffle, I figured it was a 'Stones track ca. Sticky Fingers or Exile..., likely an unreleased and/or unheard (by me, at least) track from the myriad 'Stones box sets, both legitimate and otherwise, which have been getting released of late. I was wrong again.
Now all of this is a ridiculously roundabout way of trying to get to a point. The point, I think, is this: the band known as Endless Boogie, despite their unashamedly derivative nature, are one who've far surpassed whatever meagre expectations I held for them. They're a shameless mish-mash of well-worn sounds - the band is made up of four fast-approaching-middle-age collector "dudes" (one being Paul Major, an infamous hoarder of vinyl on the US's east coast) - but the vaults they're plundering to come up w/ their own unique take on blues/boogie-rock are A-OK by me. Obviously there's a heavy element of minimalist choogle derived from John Lee Hooker (their name being the title of a '70s Hooker LP) and primo Canned Heat, but they mix it up w/ a more aggressive variant on the genre, spawned from the likes of the Groundhogs and the Coloured Balls (the two greatest bands I'd fly under the vague banner of "aggressive, hard-hitting and vaguely punkish '70s blues-rock"), as well as a loose 'n' swingin' psychedelic garage punk a la the Stooges' first LP and the kind of repetitive grooves collector dorks pop boners to on Can and Neu! platters. Sounds like "collector music", right? Endless Boogie are better than that, particularly the new album, Full House Head.
That opener, "Empty Eye".... boy oh boy, that's a corker, an ear-grabbing lead-off that's streets ahead of just about any contemporary rock 'n' roll tune I've heard the past 12 months. When you hear it context-free like I did upon first listen, you can't deny its greatness. If the 'Stones hadn't lost the plot (or their balls) after Exile..., they woulda sounded like that. And there's more to come. Most of the songs hover on the 8-minute mark; the faster tracks, such as "Tarmac City", almost resemble an AC/DC-Dead Moon hybrid (and on "Top Dollar Speaks His Mind", Major sounds exactly like Fred Cole); and the final number, "A Life Worth Leaving", clocks in at over 22 minutes and drops the fidelity levels as it continues, laying out an awesome grime that's somewhere between "Sister Ray", Master Of Reality and "Orgone Accumulator". Upon listening to this the dozenth time (I only just received it in the mail three days ago), and then revisiting their Focus Level CD once again, I'm convinced that Endless Boogie are not merely a high-concept band aimed at hipsters. In fact, they're nothing of the sort. As a totally non-careerist conglomerate of hairy, ageing vinyl addicts creating their own musical niche in the year 2010, I can't fault them. No matter which way you cut it, it's great stuff. Investigate.


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