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Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang Derdang

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Artist: Archie Bronson Outfit

Album: Derdang Derdang

Label: Domino

Review date: Jul. 31, 2006

It's been a while since an album has kicked off with this much intensity, the rapid, up-and-down guitar strumming, jungle-low drums and a trembling, intense, both-hands-on-the-downed-powerline voice of Archie Bronson Outfit's Sam Windett. "Cherry Lips," the opening song from the band's second album, could be another by-the-numbers homage to early 1980s post-punk, complete with squalling, atonal saxophone near the end, except that it's got about twenty times the twitchy, joyride energy of latter-day Franz Ferdinand or any-day Maximo Park. The trio makes music that's not complicated, but that's pushed right up to the breaking point. When Windett wails, "Your fat cherry lips" for the tenth or eleventh time, the denial of release seems almost to destroy him, and the breakdown that follows is as heady, destructive and claustrophobic as a stalker's fantasy. Yeah, that's right, the song -- and the ones that follow it -- are more than a little bit sexual.

In fact, you could look at the first five songs as a cohesive set. They're all driving, droning, primitively charged post-punk songs whose reference points fall well below the waist. "Kink," with its sing-songy guitar riff and soccer arena chorus, is a carnal-tension blowout, Arp Cleveland's all-toms drumming pounding like a headache as Windett sings lyrics about tongues and fingers. The "ah...ah...ah...ah"s mid-song, syllables punctuated with drums, guitar and bass all crashing simultaneously to earth, sound like either frustration or satisfaction, pleasure or torture, depending on your situation when you hear it. That same sense of barely (not always) repressed danger permeates the best song, "Dart for My Sweetheart". This first single is a countdown of lust and violence, starting with "One/Is a gun with a dart on my sweetheart" and running all the way through "Twelve/I'll take you like only I can." It's a combination of tribally-heated rhythms and sing-along choruses, hammered slowly but inexorably into limbic memory. From there, "Got to Get (Your Eyes)" charges headlong into a furious rollercoaster groove, all sixteenth note pounding on the drums and nonsensical but hook-heavy singing. With "Dead Funny" Cleveland finally locates the cymbals, perhaps ironically, as the cut makes a leering nod to disco.

It's worth noting that the lyrics to these songs are written by the drummer, not Windett, which perhaps accounts for their hypnotic, repetitive, not quite linear quality. The words are one more tom-tom in these songs, pounding away furiously against the equally percussive bass and guitars. The fact that there's a swallowed hysteria lodged in Windett's throat gives the words urgency rather than literal meaning. You don't always know what he's so hyped up about, but the situation seems pretty dire.

These first five songs are like a good singles collection, every one of them free-standing and complete, none of them particularly relating to the others. The rest of the album is slighter and less compelling. "Modern Lovers" is all mood and no hook, its frantic-ness soured without the counterbalancing melody of, say, "Dead Funny." "Cuckoo" is slacker and more jangly, and "Jab Jab" almost turns things around, but sounds too close to "Kink" to count. The album's final cut is an acoustic take on "Dart," a folky, strummy off-take that's clearly padding. (Derdang Derdang is short even so at 39 minutes.) It's so inconsequentially pretty that you may not recognize it as a self-cover at first, though you might find yourself wondering how it would sound with an artillery round of percussion, a barbed-wire swath of guitars behind it. That's easy, though - it would sound just like the first half of Derdang Derdang... a very good thing indeed.

By Jennifer Kelly

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