Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Album Review: Barb Wire Dolls - Rub My Mind

I don't spend much time diving through the waters of punk music. I never went through a punk phase, nor was I ever someone consumed with the anger necessary to fuel that kind of attitude. I had my forays with The Offspring, and there is the one non-punk Bad Religion album I love, but for the most part, anything that is described that way has remained far off my radar. That would include Barb Wire Dolls previous album, which I was aware of but never actually listened to. But this is a different year, the world is a different place, and it's dedicated to the memory of Lemmy, so how can I say no to giving it a shot? If there is ever the right time during my life for punk, this has to be it.

The album kicks off with "Back In The USSA", which is a more clever take on the current political reality of one of our major parties than I had come up with on my own. But for a song with that viewpoint, there isn't enough venom in the delivery. It almost has a hint of power-pop in the saturated guitars and layered "whoa-oh" vocals. I was expecting spitting bile, and that's not the approach the band took. While it doesn't really work on that track, it does on "If I Fall". It's a throwback to the garage-punk of the Ramones, with a raw energy and a bouncy chorus. That's the kind of punk I can get behind.

"Desert Song" is appropriately named, as the laid-back feeling evokes the imagery of the desert, and the sound given to it by Kyuss. When the build up finally reaches its crescendo, it's a genuinely stirring moment that caught me off-guard. There's evidence of some real nuance in the band's songwriting that the little bits of their music I had heard before didn't contain. If the growth is real, and not just a figment of my limited experience with their music, I'm mighty impressed.

There are a few rough moments, though. "We Are Champions" spends its already short time repeating the same two ideas over and over, to the point where it reaches boredom in less than three minutes. If it was going for the psychology of drone, maybe it makes sense, but all I know is it wasn't at all interesting to listen to. Much better is "Fade Away", whose riff borrows just a touch from "Mary Jane's Last Dance". Pulling influence from Tom Petty is never a bad thing.

I think what threw me about the album is the description that came along with it as being from "raucous rockers". That terminology doesn't fit this album at all. There are the influences of early punk in here, but the delivery is executed in a way that everything comes across rather calm and subdued. That's not a bad thing at all, but it leaves a bit of cognitive dissonance between expectation and reality.

Ultimately, I like "Rub My Mind" for what it is. It's a hybrid of stoner, punk, and seventies power-pop. I think it works better like this than if it was the fire-breathing punk record I was expecting. This record sounds more timeless than a teenager's rage, which I think will help down the line. "Rub My Mind" is an album that can grow with you, even if you grow out of the feelings that fuel it. That's a pretty good trick, so it's worth checking out.

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