Wes McDonald – vocals, guitar, powdered wig
Les Nuby – guitar, bowchickawowwow
Keelan Parrish – bass, how low can you go?
Jake Waitzman – drums, both real and air
As the calendar turns to October and we cool down from the searing, brain-scrambling, triple-digit summer temps (“I really should’ve layered today, it might get down to 90.”), let’s take a look at an album that probably slipped through the cracks of our respective heatstrokes: Vulture Whale‘s Long Time Listener First Time Caller. I’ve written about the Whale before (see below) and this new album is one of the best releases of 2011 you probably haven’t heard.
Strictly speaking, LTLFTC is also a return to form. Early last year, the band released the Bamboo You EP, which was musically in line with previous efforts, but featured McDonald inexplicably singing in a heavy, faux-British accent. While it was amusing in parts, it was also kind of annoying. I kept listening to it and thinking that the Green Day lead singer has to be rolling over in his grave. Oh, who am I kidding? We all know Billie Joe Whatshisnuts hires somebody to do his grave-rolling for him.
Anyway, I say all that to say this. Long Time Listener features an acceptable level of faux-Brit vocals, along with a whole trunk full of the classic Vulture Whale sound: ’70s cock rock mixed with ’80s new wave. It’s a strange combo of influences, best encapsulated by this list of McDonald’s 10 favorite albums. The Cure and Van Halen? Mmmmm OK. However, this 21st century schizoid brew works, best illustrated by the whip-cracking leadoff track.
Vulture Whale – Devices
Straight-up swagger rock that reminds me of AC/DC. But, where the Highway to Hell was paved with Bon Scott‘s bad intentions, “Devices” … and to an extent, LTLFTC as a whole … is carried less by McDonald’s singing than by the Nuby/Parrish/Waitzman power trio. Not that Wes doesn’t have the leering vocals, it’s just that this song is locked down by Nuby’s spidery guitar work complementing the tornadic rhythm section.
Vulture Whale – Friday Night Video Fights
I’ve heard this tune compared to Dinosaur Jr. and I think that’s fair. But, it really reminds me of that great southern rock institution, Superchunk (who’ve also received the Dino Jr. comparisons, and are equally apt). Take away McDonald’s vocals and you’re telling me that couldn’t be the backing track to something off of On The Mouth or Foolish? Again, I love the push/pull dynamic of the rhythm section (for tension?), with guitar chords and minimal leads beautifully filling in the sound, and McDonald’s voice riding on top. 3 minutes, in and out, this is the kind of economy more rock dudes should aim for.
LET THE DRUMMER GET WICKED
I spend most of my time on the Lounge talking up guitarists and rhythm sections in general. But, let’s give some love specifically to Vulture Whale drummer, Jake Waitzman, rockin’ out here in a fierce, pitched battle at Air Drummerpalooza.
True story: Waitzman warms up before each show by punching lesser drummers in the face. Keep that in mind next time you’re choosing bands for your Indie Rock Fantasy League. I also love that he chose to air drum to his own band’s “Peace Out,” a song that just so happens to appear on Long Time Listener First Time Caller. I’m sure most of the airdrum nerds were slapfighting each other over which Neil Peart song to use. Waitzman and his balls said, “F that.” By the way, is it just me or when you hear “Peace Out” do you wonder to yourself, “I have this strange feeling that tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak somewhere in this town. If so, and I’m just spitballin’ here, don’t you think it’s probably a good idea that I not be around?”
BUY THE DAMN ALBUM ALREADY!
I realize we live in an era when pretty much anyone younger than 30 thinks music is automatically free. So, here’s my pitch on the Whale’s behalf. You can stream the entire album (linked below) and decide if you like it. If you don’t, no harm no foul, you’ll be getting a visit from Waitzman’s fists at some point in the near future.
If you do like it, you can either download it for $5 or buy an old-fashioned compact disc for $10, and that sucker comes with a free download. $10, big whoop. You were probably gonna do something stupid with that money like spend it on food for your kid. Trust me, my dad fed me with Ray Charles and Beatles records and other than periodic hallucinations, I turned out just fine. You don’t hate your kid, do you?
Stream Full Album + Download = $5 (via This is American Music)
CD + Download = $10 (via Ol Elegante)