Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Modern Vinyl Review - The Bothers EP

The Bothers not afraid to embrace their rockabilly inspirations

When modern day rock entities are highlighted for their utilization of country and its related genres, a majority of listeners will now (and unfortunately) relate such comparisons to the Mumford & Sons or Of Monsters and Men brand of radio popularity. And while the material produced by such groups isn’t necessarily bad — a bit boring perhaps — there are others who are using these influences in ways that don’t just add a banjo to the proceedings. Take New York City-based The Bothers as an example. In their debut and self-titled EP, the 4-piece — based in the rockabilly traditions of the legendary Johnny Horton and the more recent Stray Cats — present an aggressive blend of genres, constructed for the beer soaked atmosphere of a barn dance, yet accessible to all fans of rock. More importantly, instead of cherrypicking aspects of their primary influences to cater to what’s commercially popular, The Bothers fully embrace the genres they love, such as the previously mentioned rockabilly, along with bluegrass and elements of jazz.
The EP begins with “Witchdoctor Woes,” a track that prides itself on being that aggressive brand of rockabilly. The raspy lead vocals of frontman Sean McNally are an immediate standout, the emotion pouring from his voice with every slight inflection left in through the production process. We’re not looking at an overcooked and perfect vocal performance here. Instead, with lines like ”I fix you real good/I’ll tune you up until you’re gone,” we receive a much more passionate rendition of the lyrical content. A series of hand claps add a bit of that “down home feeling” to the final chorus, while elements of psychedelic rock infiltrate the guitar work by McNally and Keith Cayea throughout the bridge. “Loose Lush” follows, dropping the frantic pace, instead driven by the bass line laid down by J.D. Fetcho. McNally sings the lines, “I want to take you home/Thought I made that clear/You better take your shot/Let’s make it out of here,” helping to present a darker, more sensual version of your standard “Get Lucky,” one-night-stand type of track.
The final song, titled “Dragonfly,” also serves as the EP’s standout, as it’s an instrumental marvel, with great guitar work on display from McNally and Cayea, along with a steady rhythm from Ben Heymann behind the kit. A track that again embraces those rockabilly roots, the frenetic picks of the guitar strings help the band build up to an excellent hook, with McNally singing, “She was my dragonfly/Oh my sweet dragonfly/She left me high and dry.” And instead of attempting to place it within several genres, the best way to describe the song would be that it’s a great rock n’ roll tune, plain and simple.
Sound Quality: Is there a way in which less than perfect sound quality can actually improve your listening experience? It could be true in this pressing, because despite a noticeable layer of “fuzz” or surface noise — not present in the digital version — the vintage sound actually meshes quite well with the band’s attitude and aim. I would have liked a bit more depth to the pressing, as a track like “Loose Lush” lost that bottom layer of bass, but I’m being pulled toward my emotional side with this one. It’s not very dynamic, but it’s a fun spin, despite its imperfections.
Packaging: The record is packaged in a standard 7″ jacket, along with a white inner sleeve. The art is minimalistic, but the individual photos of each band member are a nice touch on the back cover. Collective Confusion has also hand-numbered each copy. The red variant (described further in the “Extras” section) matches up well with the front cover title graphic. The only downfall comes with the lack of a lyric insert.
Extras: The record includes a digital download, which not only features the EP material, but also a series of live tracks from a May 2013 performance from the band. Showing off a frantic, energetic stage experience, the live cuts include one original, along with Johnny Horton and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins covers. Most of all, an instrumental precision is on full display, which really gives you an appreciation of what the group is capable of. Collective Confusion produced two variants for the release, with the red vinyl limited to 100 copies and the black variant limited to 200 copies.
Summary: The debut EP from The Bothers finds a group unwilling to compromise their exciting vision, with the genres of rockabilly and bluegrass given an aggressive, modern-day touch. While only three tracks, the material is enough to give fans a reason to return in the future. Collective Confusion has continued their string of strong releases, as the highlight of their vinyl pressing is an expanded digital download, featuring three live tracks.
Make Sure To Spin: “Dragonfly”
You can still pick up the record through Collective Confusion’s webstore.
(Thanks to Modern Vinyl for the kind words. Read the article here and be sure to check out Modern Vinyl for all of your vinyl news!)