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Pearls and Brass - The Indian Tower

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Artist: Pearls and Brass

Album: The Indian Tower

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jan. 22, 2006


Not to be confused with Jesus' stomping grounds, the Nazareth of Pennsylvania is a sleepy little hovel with well under 10,000 people in the Lehigh Valley (although to go biblical again for a second, it is quite close to another town named Bethlehem). They have a speedway and an Indian cemetery there, but not much else. It was against this backdrop that the three guys who make up Pearls and Brass met and started jamming together 10 years ago. Theirs is a music drenched in suburban ennui resin-soaked choogle riffs wedded to a dexterous rhythmic punch that had to have been concocted in a basement adorned with Sabbath / Grand Funk posters and just a hint of spilled bong water. In a larger sense, Pearls and Brass have hovered around the same Jeff the Pigeon scene in Allentown that forged the wrought iron of Pissed Jeans and Air Conditioning. But this ain't no punk rock noise grating here. No, The Indian Tower, Pearls and Brass' second long-player, is pure, classic proto-metal boogie played by guys who honestly seem to live this stuff in the best possible way.

Pearls and Brass have a classic sound, but one would be hard-pressed to find a record from 30 years ago that plays this pristine and precise. And there's the rub it's definitely not a throwback, nor do these three hopelessly ape their forbearers. From these six hands it all sounds so damn effortless. "The Tower" leads off, moans bobbing and weaving through grimy notes and a limber, swinging backbeat. The murky lurch of "No Stone" comes on quick after that, and by the time the drums roll on through to introduce "The Mirror," it's all over. If your skull isn't swinging back and forth at this point, then you should have someone check your vitals right quick. Sure, you could argue that that outside of the acoustics of "I Learn the Hard Way" or "Away the Mirrors" there's little to no variation in the attack. But when you do something well there's really no need to switch things up just yet, is there?

Spinning this one end to end makes it sound as though this trio managed to ignore most of the music recorded in the 1980s and 90s, like the lineage goes from Cream and their ilk straight to guitarist Randy Huth's serpentine licks and drowsy vocals. And yet it becomes patently obvious over these 11 tracks that this isn't some lame pose or an attempt to tap some ancient vein just for laughs. Just check the solo at the end of "Wake in the Morning" a mammoth lead that cuts in when the drums and bass stop that doesn't even remotely wink at the audience. Or what about the opening riffs of "Pray for Sound," notes hanging in the air as the toms get a pummeling work-out? Figure out a way to bottle that sincerity and you'll make a mint, I guarantee it. This is serious stuff, folks.

Retro-fetishism is relentlessly problematic when it comes off as a fashion statement, but the reality here is that these guys sound like they couldn't care less how they are perceived. They don't charge these riffs because it's a good look or it might just be the hot commodity of the year. Every note, every one of Josh Martin's drum fills and Joel Winter's four-string power thuds sound carefully placed for maximum head-bobbing, beer chugging, joint rolling enjoyment. Pearls and Brass have your ultimate Friday afternoon "just got paid today" soundtrack right here. Turn it up loud and enjoy.

By Michael Crumsho

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