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Royal Pines – Dead Last (Royal Pines)

Royal Pines - Dead Last
29 February 2016

Guitarist/singer Joe Patt was formerly the Columbus, OH-based drummer of The Hairy Patt Band and Them Wranch (I saw the latter play twice when I lived in Columbus from 1998-00, once opening for The Damned at Alrosa Villa), before forming Royal Pines in 2005 following his move to Chicago. Unfortunately, this aptly-titled fourth LP is their swan song, as the foursome has announced they’re breaking up after a decade together. Their finale is no going-through-the-motions phone-in, however. In fact, to parrot the description I gave their 2014 third album Three Sheets, Dead is another “harrowing, unnerving ride.” Look no further than the unrestrained, undulating psych/garage/blues opener “Earth Mama.” Like a seething bull being released from its cage, “Earth” hurtles forth like an Obliterati-era Mission of Burma maelstrom meeting MC5’s “Ramblin’ Rose.” Similarly, the sludgier, sinister “My Current Obsession” gushes and gurgles like Mount St. Helens about to erupt. On each, Patt’s “ornery, gnarling baritone” still summons Wall of Voodoo’s Stan Ridgway, but with more of a deep, dark, Ian Curtis-evoking howl.

Elsewhere, the band veers from the concise compositions which comprised Three, stretching out their song structures. The serpentine “Idol” rides a cloppy, clangorous rhythm for over eight explosive minutes, intermittently interrupted by Patt’s and Fred Brown’s earsplitting guitar bursts and, midway through, Joe Gerdeman’s turbulent, tribal drum solo. The more propulsive “Slow Cars and Slow Women” finds a paranoid, panicky Patt, on the lam with a lecherous lass aboard an automobile gone astray, prattling on like a sweaty, strung-out beat poet, as a tense, thumping drumbeat and an urgent surf guitar riff plays behind him.

While the four above-mentioned songs were recorded in a proper studio, Dead’s final three tunes were laid down in RP’s practice space with only one mic. Thus, the lethargic, “James Bond Theme”-lifting “Ash Dentist,” the ricocheting, reckless “Hard For Me to Walk,” and the shrill, screeching “I Can’t Be Found” – which finds Patt haranguing like a hysterical, hallucinating junkie – are as compressed, cluttered, and discordant as early Rocket From the Tombs demos, with Patt’s buried, strident vocals even recalling that band’s David Thomas. Dead may be their last LP, but it’s anything but lifeless. (To help ease our withdrawals, the band have also released two live albums on their Bandcamp page: a muddy but hot October 26, 2009 Chicago gig entitled Live at the Logan Square Auditorium, and a sharper-sounding document of their August 8, 2015 final show in Chicago, The Final Show, Live at the Mutiny. Both LPs feature the group’s original lead guitarist Brian Harper, who left in 2011.) (royalpines.bandcamp.com)

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