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Endless Boogie - Long Island

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Artist: Endless Boogie

Album: Long Island

Label: No Quarter

Review date: Feb. 19, 2013

Not many modern rock bands draw a line -- and dare you to cross it -- the way that Endless Boogie does. Even their name spells out provocation. It is the promise of a long time on your feet. It sets a level. And even then, it’s still a misunderstood ideal, the one they pursue. I can only guess what other people hear when they listen to music, but I’m sure that in stature, in precedent, and in approach, Endless Boogie creates preconceptions that have caused a lot of their potential audience to back away before a single note is finished. They must be confused. Maybe they don’t like electric guitars in an “endless” context, or fear hours of some no-talent wanking away into nowhere.

But it’s all in the presentation, and in that Endless Boogie puts up a fight. It took me several sets and a number of years before their first album, Focus Level, brought them into sharper perspective for me. One thing to know about these guys is that anything less than an 80-minute double LP doesn’t seem to be considered an album. They’ve made a handful of these smaller releases, with the assistance of record/art aficionado and speculative get-done’r Johan Kugelberg, who somehow bestowed these records (three 12”s, and a 7” called Swedish Pizza which retailed for $20 new, and may have been somehow associated with the Kuge’s HuffPo piece from last year) with instant collectability cachet. The full-lengths, though, are where Endless Boogie achieves parity with what their live experiences are like, and Long Island, their third, goes the greatest distance of any of their records in bridging that gap.

Last time I saw them was at the 2012 All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in New York City, which took place at some sort of athletic complex on the East River, next door to where the city’s public works department stores their heavy equipment. The Boog got slotted as the first band on the last day, performing at stadium decibels with a light show at high noon, on a stage almost directly beneath the FDR. No one was there, save festival personnel, other musicians doing soundchecks, publicists and support crews, and Chris Weingarten. Outdoors, in bright daylight and a chilling fall wind, having to compete with the sound of cars shushing past and trucks downshifting overhead, their message had few takers.

Rammed into Recess Gallery, with insufficient air conditioning, one working toilet and a keg of free beer down by the mouth of the Holland Tunnel in 2011 … that was a different story. They were part of someone’s installation for an evening; right now, the space is being used to house about a thousand copies of The White Album. I’d seen Endless Boogie many times before this night, most often in an opening capacity for Dungen or Oneida. It was much easier to understand what their goals were with each successive gig, until I got comfortable with the idea on my own terms. Here was a band that was going to play some very long pieces, not necessarily borne out of improvisation but certainly visiting a headspace where spontaneity was part of the package. When they are at their best, they apply subtle tweaks and changes to a set formula – bassist and drummer on Beavis & Butt-Head theme lockdown, guitars choogling on in rhythm, before one of them decides to cool it for a moment and break into a tasteful lead. And on this particular night, slotted in between Doug Pressman and Jeffrey Jensen’s Frogs-like “Blues II” band The Jewish (decked out in prom dresses and singing never-to-be-heard-again epics like “I’m a Latent Homosexual”) and like-minded, occasional-member-sharing NYC outfit Soldiers of Fortune, Endless Boogie was at their best. For this was, to my knowledge, the first night they would add a third guitarist to the lineup.

Endless Boogie gets one over on other longform rock outfits like Wooden Shjips because they don’t make it look easy. Some of these other jammy/think-they’re-rockin’ outfits are content to just ride a groove until they think no one’s listening anymore. Endless Boogie goes a lot deeper. On Brian Turner’s WFMU show, they played a cover of “Sister Ray” for three hours. At a Brooklyn gig a year or two back, they worked in a set transition from openers Arbouretum doing that very same cover. Arbouretum started, then were joined onstage by members of Endless Boogie, who took the baton and ran with it for another 45 minutes. They have the patience even if you don’t, and I believe it’s because they envision the performances, the practices, and the recording sessions as a dual signifier: not just rock ‘n’ roll, but rest ‘n’ relaxation as well. No one in this band is some twentysomething go-hard and none of them want to force the issue at hand, because it doesn’t suit their purposes. They play songs you’re supposed to get lost in, songs loud enough that they serve as the rope you clamber onto in the dark. Once they establish the setting, they go forth, wandering in time, even as it slows down. Leads are taken tastefully, handed off, woven together. There are rarely big finishes because that would be overplaying their hand. The faithful see this as a moment of reflection on their lives in the moment, the pause that refreshes. It’s important to have the ability to let your thoughts go free, and for some, rock music is the only way to release the pressure. In that, Endless Boogie becomes the thorniest meditative experience around.

Long Island is the first Endless Boogie record to see their three-guitar ideal take root. Paul Major and Jesper Eklow, no slouches in any regard with reference to their playing skills, are joined by Matt Sweeney (late of Chavez, Zwan, collaborations with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and a favored session guitarist) for this new set. Sweeney’s as close to a master class in many forms of rock guitar as a lot of people will ever encounter, and in joining the band, he’s freed up the others to go even further out, to bring in a single-note organ in on “Occult Banker” to tap against your front lobe as the rest of the band simmers in a low-country boil. He’s also the catalyst for change; the way in which the Boog can continue to espouse their ideals but keep the ideas moving in a fresh new way. Sweeney threads this one together, thickening the roux of opener “The Savageist,” where Major dons his Lothario persona, croaking like John Brannon in the bottom of a deep fryer (“Yuh gotta pretty big MOUTH-uh!”), allowing the rhythm guitars to bulk up while someone steps in for a lead; tapping out a funky signifier in “The Artemus Ward,” paving the way for the difficult triple-lead in Side D’s “General Admission/The Montgomery Manuscript,” behind Major’s catalog-style remark/poetry, listing off figures in history or the evidence of evenings in the boroughs well spent (“Sammy’s Roumanian … The Hitch,” or pontifications on the F train running too slowly). If this effort is too laid back for some, the regal hickory-scented riffs of “On Cryology” oughta wake you up, and bang on the door of whoever’s doing music supervision for FX fave Justified, too.

As Long Island is the most attractive and consistent Boog release to date, it is still a difficult proposition to say “hey, this band is for you.” No other rock groups around are so divisive on such traditional grounds. This is a band that most people have to come back to in order to appreciate. Their vocabulary is decades old, steeped in the masters of blues-prog guitar from the 1960s and ’70s, the guys who now rest in the margins, the ones you can only discover through research and recommendation. They say that dropping a toad in boiling water will only cause that hopper to bounce right out, but placing that same amphibian in a cool water, only to heat it up to boiling, will seal its fate. The music of Endless Boogie works on that same principle. It requires a commitment from you, the listener, to come back and figure out how best this music works for you on your journey. Long Island cuts through the thatch, even if it stops for beers and ribs on the way, but you gotta prepare yourself to follow along. Most rock bands wouldn’t ask anything of their audiences, but this isn’t an ego-driven move on the Boog’s behalf. They play like true believers, men who’ve found enlightenment coming out of their record collections and burning through amp tubes, and they extend that winding path to you.

By Doug Mosurock

Other Reviews of Endless Boogie

Focus Level

Full House Head

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View all articles by Doug Mosurock

Find out more about No Quarter

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