A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Swell, the newest record from our favorite LA misanthropes, is the sound of entering adulthood. Kicking and screaming. But instead of Eric Winzenried & Co. letting their square pegs being ground down into dull round holes, this quintet of lovable lunatics is making adulthood what they want it to be. It’s a ray of hope in this bleak, conforming world, that when you grow old, yr heart need not die.
Found some down time, in between some theme weeks, as we are exploring and expanding the idea of what Forestpunk is, and what it stands for. Finally getting a chance to delve into the inbox and check out some of the lovely submissions our lovely readers send us. While most blogs/publications seek to define a specific niche or sound they identify with, we here at Forestpunk strive for the opposite. We’re always looking for the beating heart and soul of the music, in an effort to provide the most literary music journalism about every style and genre on Earth, to wax whimsical about rock, soul, funk, hip-hop, reggae, and everything else. All of which are contained on Swell.
It may surprise some of you readers that we are lifelong devotees and advocates of good old rock ‘n roll. There is a power in that rebellion, in the screaming adrenaline of overdriven guitars, of a locked-in rhythm section, grooving until sunrise. If anything the problem with rock ‘n roll is that it has become too safe, too predictable; the threat has been removed. You might not pick up the whiff of rebellion beneath the slickly produced veneer of rock, funk, reggae and rap of the Hollywood Drunks, but it is there. To put it quite simply, Hollywood Drunks don’t give a fuck. They do what they want. They stand aside from fly-by-night fads and make the music that they like, trying to make the best possible recordings, to wrest the best possible performances from their instruments. And they succeed.
The Drunks blend of chugging, chopping rhythmic funk, muscular classic rock, glammy swagger, and singsong vocals dissolving at whim into a clipped hip-hop flow is just not in right now, and i feel like the casual listener might dismiss this record, especially considering that it is presented in a very glossy and clean, studio style, without even the pretense of stylization to hide behind. If you were to put this on a cassette with a scuzzy photographed cover, or release it on a vinyl 12″ and people would probably be shitting themselves, falling right in the line of modern day garage warriors like Ty Segall or John Dwyer‘s myriad of monikers. But the Hollywood Drunks decide to play it clean, maybe vying for more mass appeal.
Its important to not get hung up on the presentation, and try and dig into what a record is, why it exists, what the musicians are trying to say, what are they’re motivations? I have found, after spending some time with this record, that Swell is an enjoyable and surprisingly moving listening experience. It is subtle, and then it is explosive. This is a group of 5 men trying to navigate the currents of our rapidly shifting culture, dealing with dead end jobs, poverty, failed relationships, hopes, disappointments, and a whole range of other emotions. They are weathering the storm, striving to thrive, to make the best damn rock ‘n roll they can.
I have also detected a subliminal current of true subversion in the Hollywood Drunks. They are redefining, and expanding, the revolutionary ability of rock ‘n roll. They don’t come right out and attack the system, with predictable death metal growls or harsh noise antics, which have become entirely safe, nearly cartoonish, in their approximation of danger.
Instead, the Hollywood Drunks use a mixture of sarcasm, humor, rhythm, genuine emotions and fucking talent to truly attack this boring, commodified world.
Critics will tell you that rock has lost its ability to rock the status quo. The Hollywood Drunks, like the greatest Rock ‘n Roll bands, remind us that this need not be the case. We will not be bought so easily. We will not go down without a fight.
Fans of the classics, Led Zeppelin & Jimi Hendrix’s acid burn, will shit themselves for Lloyd Stuart Casson‘s truly epic guitar playing (“here comes the truth!”), where Eric Winzenried‘s croon-cum-rap reminds us of what was awesome about early Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine, both of whom we loved, at the time, i don’t give a damn if that’s not cool anymore.
We need more bands like the Hollywood Drunks in the world. Bands that are not trying to shove themselves into the latest fashions; bands with something to say. Bands with a reason to live. Its empowering. And exciting.