Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Branded Make The Swampiest Garage Punk On Their Debut!

The Branded

(Self titled)
Dirty Water Records

For our final look into Sweden for the month, we end appropriately with the debut full length release from The Branded, a bare bones garage rock trio based in Maimo that includes Brit Lee Tea, former member of garage/booze thugs Thee Exciters. Recorded in mono, this stuff is so raw and basic that it sounds old in a good way. The opening "I Do As I Please" is nothing less than vintage garage punk with Lee's scratchy voice and little more than a few chords, but there's some Keith Moon madness from drummer Anders Hanson that's over the top. "The Thang" can't be called anything else. Superfuzzed out, howling dive bar garage that's easy even for the uninitiated and sober to sing and shuffle along to. Although their music style is so tried and true that it's easy to note who they sound like, that's still complimentary. The Branded sound like they were reared on strict '60s garage r & b and nothing afterwards. "Dirty Old Me" pulls a louder step from Nuggets like Cuby & The Blizzards while "Shattered" is nothing less or more than growing up with nothing but The Sonics. Although we're not stretching it here, it's no less original. The honest truth is that there's nothing better than some simple garage rock trio pounding out great tunes that one drinks, sings along with, and stomps their feet to simultaneously. Although tried and true, it's only really good if one puts all they have into it and doesn't give a fuck about what anyone thinks. Although many garage rockers do great performances, their recordings often fall short by missing the live vibe. The real proof of greatness is when the band can emit that from a recording. The Branded succeed much more than most acts on this front.

"I'm A Mean Tomcat" is more lowdown and dirty than Chuck Berry's rap sheet, but nobody's a victim except for one's ears. Lee's guitar playing picks up some classic r & b style derived from early greats like Link Wray and Bo Diddley. It's the kind of stuff that early Rolling Stones cut their chops on as the dirty Beatles. Some pysch with a lot of fuzz creeps into the picture with "Black Gold", a faster, garage punk tune, but the fuzz just dominates! A hint of monotonic Easybeats creeps up on the caved-out "Voodoo Love", except the harmony is basic and the song is much more raunchy. The obvious anthem "I'm Branded" makes no bones about it's seedy origins in r & b. Although it's an original song, it sounds and feels like something would would have heard in some little pre-integration blues joint in the deep American South! The Blues is about being down but feeling good about letting it out. With early blues talents being considered to have a deal with "The Dark Side" and good ole' sin, there's nothing more descriptive than being "branded" emotionally, but the physical act points to the earlier origins of those who invented The Blues. It's an honest compliment to the originators in its ability to communicate through the most basic simplicity.

"You Got The Hurt Now" is among the tracks where Lee's voice is clearer and more commanding. However, bassist John Krantz and drummer Anders never take a backseat. Athough lead singer's are usually frontmen, Lee's voice is serves as an important vehicle to communicate the music and thus, the singing is a component, as great as it is. This is obvious on the 1-2-3-4 standard beat of "I Need A woman", the bass is a near drone in contrast to Lee's brighter guitar and Anders' drumming, while the Added vocal's of "I need a woman" provide an echo that's true to common sentiment. "Mother Packed Bag" is a brilliant album ender that's part skiffle, then settles into a nasty and vintage '60s Brit interpretation of The Blues, but ends with a 2nd tempo and melody change as a closer. The ending hoots and dialog give it a great, unrehearsed, live feel that seems to include the listener as an honored guest.

Dirty Water Records has created its own niche in the garage rock pantheon with bands like The Branded, who dip into the earliest past of r & b/garage rock to pull out the rawest bones and bring it into the future. The Branded are a perfect example of this ethos. They're loud and raunchy, but never come accross as anything less than great rock 'n' roll. What makes The Branded notable in the modern state of so many great garage bands in current existence is their full dive into the original influences of garage rock, r & b and its earlier, lonely incarnation in blues. If down and dirty, r & b based rock 'n' roll is your thing, The Branded, full length debut is nothing less than a must own.

The Branded: Voodoo Love

The Branded as well as other Dirty Water Records acts like Thee Exciters, Spanish wildmen The Hollywood Sinners, Argentina's primitive beat Los Peyotes, a few choice others, as well as the essential Vindicated: A Tribute To The Fleshtones, is available in the US through Get Hip Distribution and in The U.K. and Europe directly from Dirty Water Records.

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