A name like Bass Drum Of Death sure as hell does not evoke an American Deep South garage band, but hey, who’s complaining? It raises heads, it is difficult to forget, and it is Google-searchable. Rock on.
Straight from Mississippi, Bass Drum Of Death is primarily the project of one John Barrett, who began the group as a solo project and later added members Len Clark and Josh Hunter. The group is rooted in tried-and-true garage rock revivalism with elements of lo-fi noise rock and just a bit of 2000s post-grunge. Rip This, their sophomore release, sounds like what you’d expect with those tags: dirty guitars and decadent lyrics, with a few nameless babes on the side.
Rip This is a fairly standard release that offers little in the way of to changing up the already saturated garage rock scene. Tracks such as Left For Dead and Sin Is In 10 are surefire rockers, but what’s here is not anything that has not been worked by Ty Segall’s last 50 releases or by the myriad of Castle Face Records bands. Bass Drum Of Death falls into the same trap as OB III’s: sure, they play loud music that’ll get people up and on their feet, but so do 500 other bands in California at equal par.
It may certainly be argued that garage rock needs not experiments nor original material to be engaging. While that’s certainly true for any genre, it does markedly reduce any ability for replay or standout. Burns My Eye is a great example: a sing-along chorus and a fuzzy guitar, and that’s it. When Lose My Mind begins, the listener has already forgotten Burns My… Ear? Nose? Something about a body part.
There always has to be an acoustic ballad; for this album, it’s Better Days. Yep, it’s one of those ironic half-love songs and half-not-love songs. Whatever happened to romantic sincerity that wasn’t about how badly the singer wants to get laid? Speaking of which, any sincerity that could’ve been in Better Days is lost by the time Route 69 (Yeah) starts. Get it guys, it’s about sex! Get it? Really though, get it? All joking aside, it’s actually a pretty strong cut with a hard rock intro that brings up the best of AC/DC. Better Days also has some nice instrumentation: about halfway through, an electric guitar riff comes out of the woodworks and is a genuinely enjoyable twist from the usual syncopated acoustic four-chord song.
There are some signs of Bass Drum Of Death’s evolution. Everything’s The Same is an awesome guitar-drive track track that eschews the normal verse-chorus-verse format that permeates the rest of the album for some well-placed electric solos. For Blood simply sounds huge – way more huge than a two-and-a-half minute running length. It’s stadium rock in the term’s original connotation: sound that fills up any space in which it is played. Bass Drum Of Death should focus on these tracks next time,; these are the hits that Rip This so desperately yearns to make.
The sound production is occasionally inconsistent. Left For Dead and Burns My Eye are notably quieter and produced a little more in the mono range, which is especially noticeable when compared next to Everything’s The Same and Lose My Mind. It may be a small issue, but it is something that matters when giving the album full run-throughs. But Rip This is a well-timed release, insofar as it surfs this decade’s wave of American garage rock revivalism and fuzz rock. Diehard fans of the genre will find that Bass Drum Of Death makes a welcome addition to their playlists, but for the rest of the music world, Rip This may only entertain for a few tracks.