Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brass Castle
"And the City"

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Brass Castle
Get on Fire
(Drazzig Records, 2003)

Please forgive the long delay since my last post; I've just started a new job, and my time for the blog has been a bit compromised, as a result.

So . . .

There have been a lot of great bands from the Atlanta area over the decades both that I've lived here and the time before. Some have gained international stardom, like The Black Crowes, some have been regarded with undeserved scorn, such as the Hampton Grease Band*, but scads more have flown under the radar.

For this Local to Me Theme Week, I've been primarily, OK almost entirely, covering that last category; Brass Castle, sadly, fits there.

I first saw them when they played with Axehandle at The Star Bar. I knew nothing about them other than they were recent-ish transplants from Florida, and I'd been told they rocked. I forget who it was that told me, but he was right.

Now, admittedly, I have a thing for two-piece bands, or duos, to use the vernacular. I also have a thing for loud guitars, as regular listeners may have noticed. Chaos is also almost always a plus. Brass Castle's setup is basic: a guitar, an amp, a drum kit, two guys, three legs. Chris (Strawn) owns two thirds of that last item, while Christian (Gordy) has one third of them plus the prosthetic to the right. Lest you think I'm being limbist for mentioning it, the picture is from the booklet for their eponymous album on Velocette Records.

Where does the chaos enter? Well, their song structures are anything but conventional, and things often veer off in completely unexpected directions. Added to that are vocals that are often shouted, yelped, and incomprehensible. Then there's the performance. Chris is the rock'n'roll showman: windmilling his guitar, jumping and landing in splits while soloing, skidding across the stage on his knees, etc. Christian, on the other hand, is the loose cannon: drunk, screaming, nearly falling over constantly. Amazingly, I can think of only one show I ever saw where he keeled over while trying to kick one of his stomp boxes with his good leg while balancing precariously on the prosthetic.

A couple of things really stuck out at that first show mentioned above. Other than the fact that they rocked like an Oedipus Complex, of course. At some point, Chris sat at the drums and started to kick the bass drum (I think it was the bass drum) slowly, while encouraging the audience to clap along. When I say slowly, I mean so slowly as to make it impossible for the average listener to catch the beat well enough to accompany it. Along with that, at some point a couple of young women entered the bar and headed for the back, a feat which requires pretty much passing in full view of the stage when the crowd is sparse. Christian was tuning his guitar when he saw them, stopped and addressed them from the stage: Hello, ladies! He was rather sweaty and drunk at this point, it being partway through their set, and the poor women looked as though they were certain Christian's mere gaze could infect them with all manner of horrific ailments. Why is this even funny to me? Come on! They were in a dive bar with loud, sweaty rock 'n' roll bands playing, not at the gosh darn cotillion!

Today's song is from Brass Castle's formal debut album, Get on Fire. In addition to it, there are three other full-length albums, or four, if you count the other one, which I will explain in due course.

Their first release was actually a 7" EP, John Derek, which they recorded as a trio.

Their first duo release was their demo CDR Doing the Best They Can. It's actually longer than all of their other releases, and features a number of songs that never got redone for their later albums.

Following the release of Get on Fire, Brass Castle got signed by Velocette Records, the new label started by Capricorn Records co-founder Phil Walden, when Capricorn got killed in the dreaded Major Label Wars of the early 21st Century. Their first, and last, album for the label, which was sadly short-lived, was the aforementioned eponymous one.

Their final album, Cancer Daze, was recorded way back in 2007, but sat in the can until they finally released it themselves as a digital download in late 2010. I believe it was due to be released by Hoss Records, as there was mention on their old website of a forthcoming Brass Castle release.

So what's that other one, you ask?

Remember back in 2003 when fellow duodenal ATLiens OutKast released their dbl-CD Speakerboxxx/The Love Below? You know, the one where each guy got one disc all to hisself? In 2005, Chris and Christian did the same thing with the release of their dbl-CDR Chris Castle/Brass Gordy. There's a couple of differences, of course. For one, the latter was fairly limited; my copy is hand-numbered #7. The more important difference, however, is Chris Castle/Brass Gordy is a solid release from start to finish, as opposed to a bloated release with a handful of killer singles fleshed out with inane skits and copious amounts of filler. Four of Chris's songs were re-released on his 2008 debut solo album I Left My Hat in Hades, an amazing album that was one of my Top Ten favorites of that year.

NOTA BENE: Drazzig Records is an odd name for a label, huh? Well, turn it around and it spells Gizzard, the name of Chris's former band down in FLA. At that same time, Christian was a member of Dampading, whom I've also featured here.

*The lone album by the Hampton Grease Band, Music to Eat, was long claimed to be the second worst selling album in Columbia Records history. I cannot comment on the veracity of this claim, but I can tell you the album rules, and it was eventually given the swell-deserved deluxe reissue treatment. After the death of guitarist Harold Kelling, whom I featured in the early days of this blog, they did a reunion concert here in town. It was hands down the best show I attended that year.

1 biased opinion:

Biki said...

not a bad song, interesting post. lol i think its funny how you assume that i know that outkast released a dlb-cd!!!!

and yeah i know who outkast is, but thats about it.