Album Reviews

The Boggs – Forts

(Tangled Up!) UK release date: 18 February 2008

The name might tag them as Watch With Mother rejects, but The Boggs are actually the working moniker of Durban thirty-summat Jason Friedman.

Forts is Jase the Ace’s third big record after a spate of character-building record company wranglings. It’s available in many moods. You can have any one, but they’re all black.

Pieced together by seeming necessity from transatlantic sessions with various like-minded chums, Forts is as fine a piece of studiedly raw rock ‘n’ roll you’ll find this side of The Black Lips in this youthful millennia.

Having knocked around New York for over 10 years (where else does a self-disrespecting art-punk go?), Friedman’s Boggs are now part of journo-created New Weird America, skinny jeans ‘n’ all. If Forts is truly representative of this NW-America, then it’s statute of liberty clearly endorses all manner of endeavour from its huddled masses.

Friedman’s interpretation contains bawdy, saucy, horn-work, folked-up unhappy-clappy chanting, and phat-ass production that contrives to make swamp and clarity wrap their snaky arms round each other in virtual homage to yin and yang. But make no mistake, this ain’t one long scuzzball blast into guitar nirvana. Far from it, Friedman mixes ‘n’ matches according to fit.

Even better, Friedman is unafraid to live up the ‘band’ idea, and shares the spotlight with various co-stars such as Karen Sharky (Of Boys/Seeing Boys) and Heather D’Angelo of Au Revoir Simone. Even when Friedman gives in to bogg standard Joe Strummer-isms on Bookends, he’s redeemed by trash-talkin’ girlie back-up by the fabbo Nadja Kornith.

If the threatened rockabilly revival is a-dawning, Friedman’s Boggs just may be the yardstick by which all others are judged, and prevent others that follows from disappearing into a quicksand morass inhabited by the likes of Showaddywaddy, Matchbox and Shaky. (For those of you who haven’t a scooby of what I’m going on about, check yer hit singles books. This is the rock past they don’t want you to know about.)

But though Forts often rocks like a mutha, there isn’t a metallic glint in sight. Centrepiece Arm In Arm is the brassy sound of the devil’s colliery band gearing up for a final descent into the stygian depths before Ragnarok arrives. Some of the digitally aware out there might be even be aware of last year’s not-to-be-missed Hot Chip remix, but Arm In Arm is also available in Shy Child and Glass Factory flavours.

So I So You and Melanie In The White Coat roll like the Pogues in full pirate-gear on Thousands Are Sailing, with J Mascis as the slacking quartermaster. On the rockers, rhythm is the priority, no matter how shouty the chants, or how boisterous the brass. But Friedman never lets his guard down. Some of this stuff is closer to the lip-curling spirit of Eddie Cochrane than anybody’s ever managed to get since he took his twenty flight rock past the third step to heaven.

But this is also rock ‘n’ roll in the way Lou Reed probably imagines the third Velvets album. All is shade, but through the dark, all sorts of shapes slowly swim into focus. Rain-soaked by strings, One Year On is Friedman in classicist mode, a day-in-the-life snapshot as hazy revelation.

The Passage, led by Sharky, is the morning hour rising cold off a dark night of the soul, just as After The Day is its spidery approach (the Heather D’Angelo version is the killer versh).

And speaking of approaches, Forts are notoriously tough to penetrate. But even at its rowdiest, the Jason Freidman model is helpfully welcoming. And once inside, you won’t want to leave.

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