There are two (non-original) versions of Dolly Parton's immortal "Jolene" that I can, in good faith, recommend. The first is the hauntingly beautiful 45-at-33rpm monstrosity that some madman decided, quite accurately, was a good idea. The second is Turkey Vulture's rompish take on the classic--this track being the b-side to their debut release, which descends on ragged wings at the end of this month.
The joint effort of Jessie May (of Owl Maker) and Jim Clegg (of Lobsterface), Turkey Vulture blends grimy Americana with pedal-to-the-metal...well, metal. The entire 5 minute affair is distinctly flavored with bloody punk rock 'tude, leaning into the unbiased and seemingly belligerent anger of the 90's punk scene. On single "Boxer," Jessie May's abrupt fluctuations between harsh and pseudo-clean vocals sound like the bastardly combination of Lemmy's grit and Poly Styrene's sing-song menace. Meanwhile, rollicking--dare I say bouncy--riffage leads the charge, and Clegg's wild drums lend the affair an appropriately unrestrained maniacism. "Boxer" is a cautionary tale, filled to the brim with a pertinaciously punky verve and vigor.
Promo material cites, among others, Motorhead and Social Distortion; if we're going the route of gritty leather-clad rock + rockabilly pun, Danzig and The Distillers feel like an equally apt comparison. The same can be said of the aforementioned "Jolene," which feels like a wholly unique take on the song we all undoubtedly know and love. It's fast paced, it's startling, and yet it still maintains that hooky Parton charm. This is punk rock operating at it's finest. Lastly on the docket is bandcamp exclusive track "Bee Avenger," a humorous slice o' life in the lives of May and Clegg. It's upbeat, fun, and merits inclusion if only for the grin-inducing goofiness. Punk doesn't do so well when it takes itself too seriously. Turkey Vulture can be angry and still have a good time, and that's nothing to scoff at.
Prognosis? Boxer is, like, 5 minutes. Even if it weren't so short, it would certainly merit your attention, cuz this thing is fun as hell. When Turkey Vulture's next release hits, we'll be waiting.
Turkey Vulture - Boxer will be released June 28th, 2019
As you eagle-eyed readers may recall, the Sleeping Village featured, some months back, a grisly music video for “Feeling Dead,” the lead single from Doors & Fours’ second LP. At the time, I described--in tantalizing detail, I’m sure--the process of rubbing together gritty, blood-stained hands in eager anticipation of said album’s release. Well, well. Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has been here for a week, so it’s certainly high time we talk about it. The mosh beckons.
From an instrumental standpoint, Black Majik is, as "Feeling Dead" indicated, decidedly solid. The formula of hefty bass, angular riffage, and forward-facing drums remains, as my grandmother might say, built like a brick shithouse--no flair, but going above and beyond in the utilitarian department. If this comes off as a coy way to state that this Ontarian trio meet the bare minimum, that certainly isn’t the intent. While there are few flashes of technicality, this genre, and the Doors & Fours brand in general, necessitates a reliably bludgeoning and high-energy display of technique. To this end, this trio delivers in spades.
As alluded in the original track review, Paige McAleney’s drums maintain a delicious momentum and a vivacious energy. While accolades usually go to the dirty riffs n’ vocals, punk is so dependent on a percussionist who is able to maintain a consistent and ferocious output. In this respect, McAleney feels incredibly central to the success of Doors & Four’s stability. The guitars, which remain crunchy and jagged throughout, lend the entire affair a head-bopping groove, particularly in the overtly punk-influenced riffage of “Full Moon Tonight” or “The Weather is Nice in Purgatory.” These particularly aggressive tracks serve as focal points for the album, and would remain my recommendation for anyone looking to test the waters.
An interesting strength of the production is the tendency for the guitar (and, in particular, the bass) to move, from track to track, further behind or further forward in the mix. This allows for a certain sense of dynamism that often loses hold on your average punk album. A minor misstep in this regard is outro track “Bad Philosophy,” which significantly slows down the pace. Despite being enjoyable in and of itself, doesn’t feel like it exists within the same universe. Looking at the big picture, however, the ability of the riffage to provide space where needed allows Adam Peach’s boisterous vox the ample room it requires.--and indeed deserves. In a similar vein, the subtle melodicism that weaves and wends through the vocals is provided the occasional moment to shine without being buried beneath crushing riffz.
Speaking of the album’s overall construction, the length is worth note, but not worth criticism. At under half an hour, Black Majik is a very brief ride. Brevity fits the bill, and a longer runtime may have reduced the punchiness of the package as a whole. Given the multiple surprises Doors & Fours offers, the consideration given to depth in the course of composition is most impressive.
Beyond all this, however, there’s an overarching reason that Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs has graced the halls of the Sleeping Village fairly incessantly these past few weeks. As someone who conquers a slog of heavy music on the daily, most of which is attempting to be as ANGRY and ANGST-ridden as possible, fun is an absolutely essential component. Doors & Fours is refreshingly jubilant, and sound like they are having as much fun playing as I am listening. Here’s an example: Doors & Fours is so infused with this spirit of gleeful irreverence that, upon mistakenly hearing the chorus for “Dead Bodies” as “make love to dead bunnies,” I left the engagement utterly nonplussed. This fun-loving ambiance is a decidedly lovable quality, and in a world filled with bands vying for attention, taking yourself too seriously is sometimes a bit of a turnoff. A little humor in the lyrical arena goes a helluva long way at drawing the listener back in, and little gems like “we're here for eternity/cause we're fuckin' zombies/we're already deeeeeeeaddddd” only serve to reinforce a tangible sense of glee. But yet, these tracks carry themselves with a serious horror aesthetic weight. That’s a hard combination to nail.
Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs is simultaneously fun and menacing, jubilant and aggressive. Not to mention utterly addictive. Albums like these make for very welcome encounters, and Doors & Fours will undoubtedly remain in heavy rotation for the sheer enjoyment they deliver. The grisly bottom line? This satanic orgy comes highly recommended.
Doors & Fours - Black Majik & Other Aphrodisiacs was released on Feb. 1st from Aborted Productions