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'68

Two Parts Viper

Written by: MIN on 21/06/2017 14:17:37

Some four years ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to “One Wing”, the fifth studio album by the chaotic, experimental hardcore outfit The Chariot, led by the ever-versatile Josh Scogin — and since that introduction, I’ve grown quite fond of the guy. Unfortunately, later that same year, The Chariot split up and Scogin decided to try something new. Along with drummer Michael McClellan he co-created the project ’68, which features only the two of them. Now, you might sit there thinking, “oh dear God, is this another White Stripes-ripoff?”, but don’t worry, it’s not. Whilst ’68 do pay their respects to the classic and modern blues genre, they also manage to flip it on its head and spice it up with Scogin’s flair for chaos and experimentation.

The band released the excellently ferocious and noisy “In Humor and Sadness” in 2014, which felt like a natural phasing out of The Chariot. On their second album, “Two Parts Viper” the duo has toned down the chaos even more and created a record that, essentially, feels more blues- and rock-driven than its predecessor. But fret not, the album still has Scogin written all over it; it is still vile and beastly in all the right places but this time around, there’s just a more of an evident focus and red chord throughout. The eye is on the ball, and the ball is innovative blues rock n’ roll that never ceases to be thrilling nor entertaining and demands to be heard.

The inspirations of ’68 are plastered all over the walls and Scogin wears them proudly, like insignias on his chest. Tracks like the slow burners “Without Any Words (Only Crying and Laughter)” and “No Montage” reek of Nirvana, while “Life Has Its Design” recalls the proto-punk droning of Death Index, and we even experience a nod toward huge, modern stadium acts à la Linkin Park and Bring Me the Horizon in the anthemic, weightless whoa-ohs of “The Workers Are Few”. But like I said, it all comes down to the blues and, not to forget, the noise; the thick stomping and distortion of the riffs and grooves in “Whether Terrified or Unafraid” and “This Life is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue” make it impossible not to think of Jack White’s playfulness — only turned up way louder.

While all of this is good and well, what does it mean? Is “Two Parts Viper” just a hodgepodge of influences unwilling to claw above the thick murk it dwells in? Certainly not. The different influences make sure the songs never blend together and it gives the record a varied nature that will keep you coming back. But most importantly, it gives Scogin and McClellan a foundation to work upon. Experimentation, relentlessness and an incomparable drive push the record forward and whether its weird keyboard-effects, quiet/loud-dynamics or uncontrollable rants and screams, Scogin sounds as inspired as ever, while McClellan does his best at trying to follow the savage beast.

“No Apologies”, one of the album’s definite highlights, is the first song where Scogin truly manages to innovate and create something new, however. Halfway through the song, the vocal-delivery turns into spoken word, spontaneously interrupted by a thick layer of guitar-noise, and showcases what a great lyricist Scogin actually is, whilst also cementing the fact that he doesn’t really care much for traditional song-structures:

They warn you of the wolves but they don't warn you about the sheep // I started buying tears back in early spring // I've got the blues but the blues ain't got me // In fact we all fall asleep in act three so I'd like to panic but I ain't got the time // If you give them eight eyes they will ask for nine

After having heard Scogin quote Neil Young’s classic line ”It’s better to burn out than to fade away” in the album’s second song, it’s strange to hear him question his own mortality several times afterwards. But it adds to his character and makes him feel more human: ”Life’s too short to be in the fast lane”. The line is taken from the album’s brilliant closer, “What More Can I Say”, in which all of Scogin’s fears and uncertainties come pouring out in what’s arguably this year’s most passionate delivery. Starting with the sound of a set of rusty guitar strings and a fragile and emotional voice, the song builds up constantly with added effects in the back, until Scogin explodes and launches the song into time immemorial; keys, horns and synthesizers all join and create the ultimate climax that I won’t even try to describe any further — you should just hear it for yourself instead.

Occasionally — just sometimes — I miss the increased sense of chaos that was found on “In Humor and Sadness”, especially during some of the new album’s quieter parts. But at the same time, it’s nice to hear the band evolve when they do it so effortlessly. Unlike most other duos that pretend to play the blues, ’68 actually manages to create something worthy of not only your attention, but also the genre in general. It’s raw, passionate and innovative, and it feels like a stiff middle finger to all those safe, commercial rock bands that wouldn’t know edge if they cut themselves on a razor blade.

8

Download: This Life is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue; No Apologies; The Workers are Few; What More Can I Say
For the fans of: The Chariot, Death Index, Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, Nirvana, Jack White
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.06.2017
Good Fight, Cooking Vinyl

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