Long Way Blues (Matador)
by Jon Sarre
“Insignificant and proud” once came from the lips of ex-Gibson Brother Don Howland when asked (by the Columbus Dispatch) about this Bassholes thing he’s been doing for the past seven years. Since Howland’s about as weird as Jonathan Richman, but lacks that goofball’s ability to write a saccharine yet catchy pop song, he can probably keep that quote in the bio (people who write songs about love found and lost by the guy who watches the last car on the train – see “Cabooseman Blues” on this record – just don’t garner mass appeal, y’dig?). That’s not a value judgment, mind ya, cuz this stuff is pretty fucked up in a good way like only a guy who sounds like he’s stuffed in a car trunk, but tryin’ to sound like Charlie Manson tryin’ to sound like the Grim Reaper (check out “Angel of Death”) can be.
The Bassholes (a duo consisting of Howland on guitar and vocals and Bim Thomas on drums) are reportedly attempting to track down the skeletal double helix strand of DNA that’s gonna resolve rock’n’roll’s disputed parentage for good (for their and our amusement mostly). They endeavor towards that end with trebly, ill-tuned guitars, ragged drum beats and vocal mumbles like Muddy Waters gone country crazy on corn mash. The result is music that sounds great on my girlfriend’s car stereo (which, like Long Way Blues, also has no low end).
Stevie Ray it ain’t (and it’s no Jon Spencer either); it’s twisted and dark and unique. Highlights include “Lightswitch,” which kinda sounds like a mid-’60s Who b-side where they attempted to rip off “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” ‘cept I don’t feel like I wanna boot Howland in the head the way I always do when I hear Roger Daltrey croon. Even better are the vaporous “Sister Ray”isms (give or take about 15 minutes) of “Turpentine” with Howland’s “Strychnine” paraphrasing thrown in for good measure. Elsewhere, he twists Nathaniel Mayer’s relatively sunny “I Had a Dream” (once recorded by the Gibson Bros.) into the tweaky murder ballad blues-core of “Or Was It Just a Dream?”. That, y’know, is comin’ from a cranky elementary school teacher with a wife and kids! Howland’s no suburban punk rocker to be sure, he’s more like Ozzie Nelson on a nasty homemade grain alcohol binge decidin’ that Ricky’s stuff like “Travelin’ Man” is just too fuckin’ weak and it’s high time to take Fats Domino’s advice and beat the hell outta him. “Son, I think we need to talk…”
(625 Broadway #1004 New York, NY 10012)