(Studded Left / Reverbnation Appreciation Society, 2015)
Why does this come from Houston? I have no idea. Oil comes from Houston. Rich oil barons live in Houston. Houston is hot, and not terribly pleasant. The Astros have that STUPID hill with the flagpole in the middle of center field (although they’re finally removing the abomination). Houston just seems like a loci where polluting the earth happens or is promoted with regularity, or at least it’s a loci for the justification for polluting the earth. And look, I’ve been to Houston (weirdly), so I’m not talking out of my rear end too much here (it’s been a while since I’ve been there though).
Maybe Indian Jewelry exists as a backlash against all that the city of Houston and its powerful lobbyists and donors stand for. A return to the wilderness. I dunno. I just know that over the course of a decade plus, they’ve blazed a trail through musical vistas so searing and vivid that whether or not they really stand for anything as overt as what I’ve suggested doesn’t really matter. The music itself suggests it. It implies an antiauthoritarian bent, a rebelliousness that naturally stands in the face of those who wield influence. It’s anti-square, too, and flies a freak flag that’s leavened with an acidic dose of cynicism, one that imagines the stars and stripes dripping black goo and slowly undulating through a hashish haze.
Get all that? Let me distill it a little further. I’m going to call it Southwestern-fried post punk with a dash of psych, because I’m kind of a dick, and you’re all slaves to easy labels. Plus, I’m going to use that label to tag this record. Try and stop me! And can you get any more oxymoronic with that description? Sure, the post punk thing is easy, there’s an element of Suicide and Siouxsie Sioux (and the dude who sings kind of sounds like Michael Gira, sorta kinda, or at least he sings like he looks like a late-1970s Harry Dean Stanton), but it’s that blazing white heat that only comes from living in a place surrounded by vast stretches of wilderness that permeates the music. Take opener “Turn It On Again” for example – there’s a dryness there within that Psychocandy overdrive that totally shouts “blazing American Southwest” rather than “miserable East Kilbride rainyness.” It shimmers and soars, and then there’s lots of guitar soloing that’s pure America. It’s an insane pop song in disguise, something the Raveonettes could only dream about duplicating.
Doing Easy eases up on the whacky a little bit as it goes along – “Intra-Body” actually has a Cranberries’ “Dreams” vibe going on (not a bad thing, I uninhibitedly love the Cranberries), and “Calling Calling” doesn’t stray far from that ballpark. “Vast Division” and “The Keys” marry that post punk and psych vibe again almost to perfection. “Riding Cars Talking Trash” has a boppy Excepter vibe with speak-sung vocals. And “Lovely Rita” is not the most expected Beatles cover – actually it’s not a Beatles cover at all, which may be a good thing. Although, given what I’ve heard of Doing Easy, I wouldn’t put it past Indian Jewelry to kill it.
What it comes down to is that Doing Easy is a surprising amount of fun for a band whose hold onto psych is not loosening, and whose locale has got to be as oppressive as it gets for rock music. And not only that, each new tune is a surprise, as different stylistic elements are foregrounded in different songs – sometimes the synthesizers, sometimes the wild guitar riffs, sometimes the rhythm – and vocal duties are traded back and forth. Thought Indian Jewelry had run out of gas by their eighth album? Think again – the flatbed tank is full and the band is ready to play from the back of it as they drive. Who knew those Georgia Satellites were onto something?
RIYL: PJ Harvey, Suicide, Raveonettes, Wooden Shjips, Excepter