Amongst the rosebush of barbs spiking out from Blood Meridian’s second album, ‘Take your job / And shove it up your ass’ is as concise a two fingers to ‘the man’ as can be found in rock ‘n’ roll’s ragged tapestry of snotty gesturing. And it ain’t alone.
The second of Kick Up The Dust’s gruff offerings, Work Hard, For What? is just one of Blood Meridian’s curled-lipped paeans to peevishness. Blood Meridian’s main groaner Matthew Camirand has claimed that all of this record’s twelve spit n’ sawdust country blues are attempts at love songs, but you wouldn’t know it without his say-so.
‘I’ll keep writing these songs about you / even though they’re really about me’ (I Don’t Believe) is hardly a sonnet to eternal union, and the bragging of Your Boyfriends’ Blues (‘tonight you’ll be in my bed’) and Good Lover isn’t likely to give Cyrano de Bergerec sleepless nights.
The rough sentiment and tougher love that form the brittle carapace of Kick Up The Dust are, it must be said, very close to the bluffing machismo that the Kevin & Perry’s of us once wrapped around our late-blooming adolescence like a duffle-coat of arms. The hangover-like foreboding of Most Days, with its list of familial apologies just underlines our hero’s pimple-pus blues.
But fret not. Yes, many are the times when Camirand’s oft-strained sneer lurches close to mannerism central, yet paradoxically, and maybe inadvertently, he has something of the Shane MacGowan rebel-song timbre. As a bonus, Blood Meridian have the gritty chops to match these Bronx cheers of dissent.
Taking their name from Cormac McCarthy’s celebrated frontier novel set on the 19th century Tex-Mex border, this Canadian five-piece play like the red dirt runs in their veins. Camirand and Jeff Lee both strum guitar like-a ringin’ the bell, but the hissy edges of the album’s production wraps the sound in such a swell of woody authenticism that technique never dominates good ol’ fashioned feel.
Best of all are the Alan Price-like keyboard cameos from new recruit Shira Blustein. Blood Meridian’s march of maudlin skirts awfully close to mawkishness at times, and Blustein brings a lighter step to the otherwise leaden-footed Soldiers Of Christ. When driving the rhythm with drummer Joshua Wells, Blustein switches the nasty brag of Your Boyfriend’s Blues into the relief of playfulness.
With their five constituent members on time off for bad behaviour from other bands, Blood Meridian are something of a ‘indie’ canadian supergroup. They affect the snottiness of true punks, with a fondness for LA’s gone-but-not-forgotten Gun Club. They also aim for the more vintage heights of N.Cave and N. Young, but nudge much closer to a less whisky-juiced Mark Lanegan.
As Try For You will attest, Blood Meridian want to mark out a territory of star-crossed lovers, midnight cowboys, wedding bells, and booty calls. Kick Up The Dust may not live up to its ambitions, but it leaves enough lines in the sand to tempt the curious.