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Picks & Lighters - Picks & Lighters

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Artist: Picks & Lighters

Album: Picks & Lighters

Label: Ecstatic Yod

Review date: Mar. 8, 2006

Ecstatic Yod dug up this under-the-radar album, originally recorded and released back in 1999 by the Knoxville, TN-based Picks & Lighters. This five-piece recorded their low-fi scuzz live to 2-track, giving it all a sort of organic layer of growth that suits the proceedings.

The Siltbreeze-style racket being made here runs the gamut of rock, from scrawled blues form poems to heavy thud and scronk. It's all like some atavistic channeling of id-soaked early Stones run through a No Wave blender. Much of it is sloppy to the point where it should be falling apart, yet it doggedly hangs together throughout.

Then there are bits like the accomplished slide and pluck interplay of "that'll work," which somehow fits in with the distorted creakiness of tracks like "the laos express" despite the differences in approach. The latter is actually one of the best showcases here, moving from eerie scrapings to a slow backwoods stomp with consistent emotional resonance.

"rock & roll 503" offers over seven minutes of proto-rock that inevitably brings to mind the very earliest Royal Trux, back when they didn't quite know yet what they were doing, and hence weren't over-thinking things. Just crank it up and riff, and see what prehistoric scree ends up coming out of the amps. If it's this good, count yrself lucky.

"the green way" is something else, a pounded piano (even though nobody's credited for piano in the CD liner) over stumbling, drunkard drums and squeaky guitar pluckings. Its shambling progression remains within a hair's breadth of falling apart, but perseverance sees them through to a clattering finish worth a chuckle. One gets the sense that a lot of beer was involved in the making.

Two of the best songs here amply demonstrate the differing capabilities of the band. "avoiding the east" is a dense cacophony of fuzzed-out Sonic Youth-ish git-strangle, while "the history of the land pirates of natchez trace" is a gorgeously shadowy acoustic piece reminiscent of Loren Connors, perhaps.

Bound to please both those crawling for raw fuzz-boogie and those into dark psychedelic spaces, it's a shame that the band vanished after releasing this slab seven years ago. But then again, better late than never, and hopefully this re-issue will see a bit more light than did the original.

By Mason Jones

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