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To Live and Shave in LA - God and Country Rally!

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Artist: To Live and Shave in LA

Album: God and Country Rally!

Label: The Smack Shire

Review date: Feb. 2, 2005

God and Country Rally! was initially recorded in 1996, slated for release on the Vulgar Tango label but, as was an unfortunate pattern in the band’s history, the label folded before the album could be issued. Thurston Moore then offered to put the disc out on his Ecstatic Peace! imprint, but, for reasons unknown, that arrangement also fizzled. Perhaps taking mind of the well-worn adage about wanting something done right, Shave magnate Tom Smith avoided further delay by releasing God and Country Rally! under the auspices of The Smack Shire, Smith’s own label. And while this album’s now almost nine years old, Smith’s decision to put it out now isn’t one that can be completely chalked up to vanity. Given To Live and Shave’s recent reunion and a well-received set at last spring’s inaugural No Fun Fest, the resurrection of these forgotten sessions couldn’t be timelier. Add to that the inclusion of the one-and-only Andrew W.K. on the group’s current tour (as well as the addition of Thurston Moore as an occasional participant), and it seems the fortunes of this ill-fated album have finally improved.

At the risk of the mid-’90s material sounding dated, or maybe not as he liked it, Tom Smith re-mixed God and Country Rally! in 2003, even going so far as to record new material for this new and (it can be assumed) improved version of the disc. It features the classic line-up of the band, with Smith, Rat Bastard, and Ben Wolcott crafting a suitably confounding collage of sound sources, mixed and mangled into an almost baroque landfill of meticulous construction. Nandor Nevai, who’d later become a full-time member of the group, provides the disc’s percussion, an anchor that’s surprisingly prevalent throughout God and Country Rally!, though just as uneven and surgically altered as the other music on the album.

More, important though, than the contribution of any single person or instrument to the album, is the overall approach taken by Smith in the construction of the music. God and Country Rally! is spared the over-activity and claustrophobic mix that marred some of To Live and Shave in LA’s earlier releases. Whereas discs like An Interview with the Mitchell Brothers are packed full of sound, with little room in between, all-out assaults, this material focuses less on simply barraging the listener with massive sound, and more on the placement of said sounds. There’s more intention, it seems, behind God and Country Rally!, and that’s what helps it rise from the mire that could have resulted. It may not take a place at the top of the pantheon of To Live and Shave releases, but this release proves that the resurrection of God and Country Rally! wasn’t a futile exercise. It’ll be interesting to see what direction Smith’s reformed posse will take in the studio, and we can only hope that it won’t take a decade to find out.

By Adam Strohm

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