In the fourth minute of Apache Dropout’s self-titled release, Sonny Alexandre howls, “Oh my God/Why must I be a teenager?” It’s one of the most memorable choruses on an album with plenty of them. Yet, for all the anger of this epithet, Apache Dropout effectively transports its listeners to one of the most important parts of their pubescent years: the days of discovering the power of rock music and its Important Bands. Judging by their seemingly familiar melodies and choices in tuning, the trio from Bloomington have spent many an afternoon listening to these Bands, watching their archival live footage and reading their biographies. This record – originally released last year as an LP, this year on disc with bonus material -- distills that sense of history into its most dynamic parts and jams it into a compact fuzzy package that demands repeat listens.
Apache Dropout pepper their album with mini-homages to these influential ‘60s psychedelic acts. The Tarzan-esque scream that opens the album could well have been from Roky Erickson and songs like rhythmic “Sylvia” do not feel like they’re of this era. The most obvious homage is “God Bless You Johan Kugelberg,” a stomper that namechecks the Killed By Death curator and author. After keeping the song tight and rhythmic, Alexandre finishes the song with a wild guitar solo full of wild and barely melodic wails that would make Lou Reed proud. These wails back a vocal track that sounds like an old radio broadcast spewing anarchy free-love manifestos like, “There is a generation of visionary, maniac white mother country dope fiend rock and roll freaks who are ready to get down and kick out the jams. All the jams.”
Yet, while Apache Dropout may be ready to “kick out the jams,” they diverge from their psychedelic predecessors by avoiding any sort of extended jamming. Even with nine live songs at the back end, the entire 20-song deluxe edition clocks in at under an hour. Although Alexandre releases a formidable vocal howl, his dramatic vocals are the only aspect of the music that even borders on chaotic. All of the songs, even “Kugelberg,” with its wild guitar solo, stay within the blueprint laid by drummer Seth Mahern and bassist Nathan Warrick. Ergo, standout tracks like “Dry Basement” and “Sylvia” are groovy, rhythmic and simple.
From the sounds of the applause breaks between the live tracks, the “dry basement in the USA” is their tried and true live venue. They quip at the end of their show, “The Who is next,” but it’s obvious that there probably aren’t more than 50 people in the crowd. At the end of the live version of “Teenager,” Alexandre jokes, “I can’t smell you enough. Please come closer.” And we hear a public apology from one of them at the end of “(Do the) Splendid Crown” for messing up during the song. While the recordings are almost identical to their already lo-fi studio counterparts, they highlight the punk ethos at the heart of Apache Dropout. If these guys can keep it up, they might just become one of those Important Bands themselves.