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Apache Dropout - Magnetic Heads

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Artist: Apache Dropout

Album: Magnetic Heads

Label: Family Vineyard

Review date: Feb. 26, 2013

The modest success of Apache Dropout following their 2011 debut album led to similarly modest developments: a slightly poppier, less gritty take on that record, called Bubblegum Graveyard; a few reissues of their self-titled in multiple formats, which somehow got a sticker with my name and words on it slapped on the cover (surely, that didn’t help sales); a couple of 7”s; and now Magnetic Heads, which compiles the band’s first two cassette-only releases for the Magnetic South label. Originally released in 2008-09, this captures the earliest iteration of Apache Dropout, its members having splintered off from previous bands (John Wilkes Booze, Hot Fighter #1, and I’m sure several others).

When I first wrote about Apache Dropout and saw them live, the tapes started appearing – handfuls of them imprinted with the name Magnetic South, a label and recording entity run by their friend John Dawson and Lord Frye. Outside of their homebase of Bloomington, Indiana, it may be harder to view Apache Dropout from the continuum of musical acts that its members have aided and abetted. Something along the lines of Magnetic Heads makes this clearer and murkier at the same time; clearer from the standpoint that musicians obviously make the evidence of their local scene, but murkier solely on grounds of content. When I first met some of the members of Apache Dropout, they talked a lot about music and records, then laid waste to a room of pitiful Brooklyn fake-psych bands, using a decrepit vocal PA, instruments that looked like they were given away with the PA, and Vox amps, their only concession to the genre. It was a tinny, blaring, pitched sound, and as Lord Fyre worked behind the kit, it was obvious that he was new to the drums, playing simply and with poise more appropriate for a flag team captain than a percussionist. Yet he executed the most perfect tempo shift in the middle of “Do The Splendid Crown,” and as the band lurched into a half-speed slugfest, they became all I’d hoped they could be. When we met again, it became apparent that, apart from sojourns to northern California to work as itinerant farmers, this music was their lives – making it was pretty much all they had to do. Bloomington is a pretty cheap place to live, and I felt envy at what they were getting away with, and at the same time, guilt at holding them to a standard that this lone LP had set, brazenly and all on its own. Under what other conditions could you participate in a group called Sitar Outreach Ministry, and mean it?

What can be taken away from Magnetic Heads is the acoustic folk background that informs the garage-punk rudiments of Apache Dropout, the veritable crawl out of the muck of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. These sounds border on the trainhopper crust-folk of various Plan-It-X style acts, and given their proximity to that organization/those groups, it’s not much of a surprise to think of them cohabitating the same space. “Don’t Trust Banks” sets the tone of bluesy misery to follow, even as a primitive cover of “Memphis, TN” choogles through the middle of side A. It’s not hard to hear the similarities between these versions of the band, particularly through Sonny Blood’s hangdog vocals and the reliance on reverb as the fourth member (derived naturally, as many of these tracks were allegedly recorded inside of a vacant grain silo), but as a genre exercise, there really is no predicting how they got from these tapes to the album-based works they’re better known for now. At times Magnetic Heads feels like a barrel scrape, only with these guys, there’s no barrel, just one more series of ideas committed to tape before moving on.

If you’ve held off on discovering the first Apache Dropout record, please, wait no longer. It has the makings of 10-year material, a wonder of an album, one with a minimalist appeal that does not wear off after dozens of spins. It is so hard to make something with those timeless, enduring qualities, and apart from some fragments of their sound and an earlier version of “I’m So Glad,” from that debut, there really isn’t much on Magnetic Heads to indicate that this is a band that could do it. And yet it happened, which is why the true connoisseur is the one who’s going back right now to listen to all of those tapes that come through, panning for gold.

By Doug Mosurock

Other Reviews of Apache Dropout

Apache Dropout (Deluxe Edition)

Bubblegum Graveyard

Read More

View all articles by Doug Mosurock

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