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Nebraskan garage rockers
deliver a lo-fi,
scuzzy tour-de-force

Brimstone Howl - Big Deal. What's He Done Lately?
(Alive Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 20, 2009
Brimstone Howl

Review by Holiday Girod

Don't like your rock & roll too dangerous? Then you might as well stop reading this and instead log onto the latest Adam Lambast (or whatever his name is) performance on YouTube; since both the video sharing website and American Idol TV show seem to be the two most powerful mediums to break new music acts these days (sad as it may be). But if, like me, you prefer your rock to have a real edge without any pretentious sheen, than look no further than Brimstone Howl's latest album, Big Deal. What's He Done Lately?, for an undiluted shot-in-the-arm of manic rock & roll in its purest (i.e. dirtiest) form.

On their fourth full-length (the title references a Joey Ramone quote about producer Phil Spector), the Lincoln, NE trio serve up a full-throttled, scuzzy set of unapologetic, primordial garage rock that hearkens back to some of the best underground rock & roll from the last four decades. While you can hear the primal urges of The Ramones, Iggy & The Stooges, The Cramps and The Sonics all clawing for a bit of the spotlight, they're all held captive behind the threesome's own unique delivery and, perhaps even more, by the super lo-fi production values. While Brimstone Howl's previous efforts were produced by the likes of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Memphis garage-punk Jay Reatard and famed Detroit engineer Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, Electric Six), this album was helmed by engineer/producer Mike McHugh (Black Lips, Jon Spencer) and the results bring out the snarling, teeth-baring best from this band. Even frontman John Ziegler admits that McHugh is "known to produce some of the most heinous, blown-out sounds this side of the galaxy," which is evident throughout these 12 scorching tracks - all recorded in analog from start to finish. Zeigler and Nick Waggoner's guitars squall and howl through face-melting rockers such as the insane opening track "The Last Time," "Elation" and "Everybody Else Is Having Fun," while Ziegler's deep and snarling rasp (sounding as if it's buried beneath a few inches of fresh dirt) gives songs such as their first single from the record, "Suicide Blues" (no doubt inspired by Ziegler's 'other job' as a 911 operator) and "Final Dispatch" the feeling as if Lenny Kaye somehow forget to include these on his first Nuggets compilation.

It's always refreshing to hear a band that obviously has no concern with trends or numbers, but driven only by the primal urges that have always fueled much of the best (and, all too often, unsung) rock & roll. Brimstone Howl is one such band capable of turning the scent of burning rubber, diesel fumes, and a lotta sweat into a breath of fresh air.

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