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Caustic Resin - Keep On Truckin'

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Artist: Caustic Resin

Album: Keep On Truckin'

Label: Up

Review date: Sep. 3, 2003

Dude, This Pot Smells Weird

Caustic Resin are perhaps one of the most aptly-named bands in rock, along with Napalm Death and the Doobie Brothers. For, while the band’s noisy psychedelia does bring drug use to mind, it’s not the fun, carefree kind of inebriation invoked by bands like the Doobies. Caustic Resin’s music is more like taking bad acid and passing out in the bathroom of a particularly filthy truck stop, only to wake up in a disused church, totally naked. For, while Caustic Resin singer/songwriter once Brett Netson played bass in Built to Spill, he shares almost none of that band’s wistful romanticism, prefering instead to let his guitars explore more frenzied, unsettling terrain.

That’s not to say that Caustic Resin are unlistenable or unremmitingly bleak – far from it. Buried within the squalls of feedback and howling vocals, there are moments of pure, fragile beauty; the strangeness and aggression of the surrounding passages only make the quieter moments more powerful. Netson is a talented musician, and on Keep On Truckin’ he’s accompanied by some players of equal ability, including Mike Johnson of late-period Dinosaur Jr. The ingenuity of these musicians seldom results in sludge or pointless noise, even at the album’s most intense moments. And on quieter tracks, like the country-by-way-of-Ozzy “Fry Like Ace Jones”, there is a delicate warmth to the music, which makes its spaced-out vocals feel that more surreal and somehow perfectly at home.

Despite the band’s obvious roots, Netson obviously has no interest in recycling hoary Neil Young country-rock clichés. Rather, he seems bent on using hard rock to destroy itself. From his vocal approach, Netson seems to have a love/hate relationship with ’70s fixtures such as Ozzy Osbourne, Roger Waters, and Jethro Tull, who both inform the Resin’s sound and provide something for it to react against. “Wizard of the Upper Snake River” seems initially to be a modern reworking of the Tull’s basic sound, when it suddenly morphs into something that sounds like a weed-damaged cover band, one with only a halting sense of where the song is going next.

Except that Caustic Resin does know where the song is going. They just work with an entirely different musical logic than most bands. Keep on Truckin’ is not an easy listen, but the music is sharply drawn, and Netson is clearly possesses strong vision. Once you’ve adjusted yourself to the pace of the songs, and the nearly relentless, claustrophobic atmosphere, it’s actually quite an enjoyable album, despite its more prickly qualities. The ’Resin hark to a time when bands often created entire worlds on record, although Keep On Truckin’s relies more on allusion and less on a prog-rock forest full of gnomes and fairies. It’s a powerful atmosphere, however; an all-consuming blend of paranoid ramblings and thick, droning noise.

If Caustic Resin seems “difficult”, it’s simply because we’ve grown unaccustomed to these kinds of sounds; fans of early Black Sabbath and the Melvins would probably consider Caustic Resin easy listening in comparison to those bands’ molasses-thick riffs. And although it might not fit every listening environment, Caustic Resin produce distinctive and deeply strange rock that ultimately bears very few comparisons. This alone makes the band worth a listen.

By Jason Dungan

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