Causey v. Gossip

The Causey Way Causey vs. Everything (Alternative Tentacles)
The Gossip That’s Not What I Heard (Kill Rock Stars)

It’s fairly difficult for an indie band to swing with any credible authenticity. Perhaps it’s the genre’s innate bookishness that prevents its players from getting the rhythm just right. Still, many a liberal arts college student has delved into the bins of his local used record store and discovered a love for the hip-thrusting rhythms of the early days of rock ‘n’ roll. After all, one could argue it was the initial combination of the Britons’ bookish nature and the Yanks’ soul that created rock ‘n’ roll. Study the right records, smoke the right cigarettes and you’re on your way to being Keith Richards.

Two recent releases have us questioning the notion that the indie set can’t swing.

The Gossip plays rock ‘n’ roll stripped to its barest essentials: one guitar, a set of drums and a large-lunged, beehive-coifed front-woman. The howl and shake of the trio has been previously unknown on Kill Rock Stars, who has released their full-length, That’s Not What I Heard. Blame their blend of punk DIY aesthetics and blues timbres on the Gossip leaving small-town Arkansas for the fertile climes of the Pacific Northwest.

The two instruments keep everything simple — the guitar often plays simple one string riffs while the drums rely on pounding every beat. The lack of a bass is hardly noticed with the impressive voice of singer, Beth. Like something of a punk Elvis, Beth’s voice resembles that of Glenn Danzig (a punk rock Elvis if there ever were one) at times. Sometimes howling and sometimes whispering, Beth belts out songs with an undeniable enthusiasm.

The album plays like their live set, jumping from one song to the next with little pause. “Hott Date” and “Bones” stand out for their loud-soft dynamics. The double-shot of “Got Body If You Want It” and “Where the Girls Are” is propelled by Nathan’s blues-riffing and Beth’s urgent vocals. The subject matter is almost exclusively sex and is absolutely appropriate for their blues-charged rock. The 14 songs don’t even take up 25 minutes. More than one repeat of the chorus is rare. And it’s good for the band. Their music is greatly limited by their instrumentation so it’s to their benefit that they don’t attempt anything longer.

Unfortunately, the songs often blur together because of their similar sounds. The band should not be missed live where similar songs just keep the bodies moving. The record is a great capture of their sound, but it’s not one that will sustain repeated listenings — as one might do when reviewing a record. That said, for fun, hip shakin’, rock ‘n’ roll, one could do much worse.

The Causey Way is a different type of animal to say the least. The band insists they are some sort of religious revivalists — not a cult, they say — and plays it so straight that you might start to believe them. Calling the songs on their new release Causey vs. Everything, “hymns” (as they do), is more than a little misleading. The brief tunes have more energy than a month of Sundays. The recordings are done by any combination of ten members. Part of the “fun” of the group is that we have little more than their pseudonyms by which to identify them. The group is led by “Causey” and composed of such members as Red Causey, The Truth, Dr. St. Causey, The Button, Boy Causey (a.k.a. “Brian” of Man or Astroman?) and Summer Phoenix.

One might suspect the sounds of ten collaborators to be a little disjointed, but only the change in singers is evidence of the band’s collectivism. “Te Como Vivo,” the first track on the record, is an impassioned introduction to the band. Simple slow piano begins the song, which soon pulses with synthesizers and a tight bass/drums rhythm. Sung in Spanish by the member we can only assume is “The Truth,” the song is full of life. Neither cold nor alien like much music driven by synthesizers, the song is warm and welcoming. It doesn’t hurt that the husky, feminine, Spanish voice is amazingly sexy.

“Te Como Vivo” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Even agitated songs like “Geo Logical Lust” and “Money” welcome the listener despite their frenetic voices and synths. The heart of the band’s sound, like The Gossip’s, lies in their palpable passion. The Causey Way never comes across as vicious or insane like, say, Six Finger Satellite. They believe so much in what they’re doing that, like any good missionaries (or con men), they are able to convince their audience to believe as well.

Smack dab in the middle of the record, the one-two punch of “Ana Caelo” and “Take Your Chances” should convert what few agnostics are still listening. The simple keyboards and Casio drumbeat of “Ana Caelo” allow the low female voice to wrap itself around the speakers. “Take Your Chances” takes great advantage of the different timbres of the singers’ voices. The Truth’s sexy voice plays off Causey’s hyper shouts — “Don’t chance it, don’t chance it,” she cautions while he counters, “Take your chances, take your chances!”

The sonic blast of “U.F.O.” closes the album (not counting the “hidden track” — a mix of Wesley Willis leaving a message on Causey’s answering machine). The shout-along is a perfect climax to the album’s relentless passion.

If for no other reason than that these two groups believe they can swing, twist and bump with the best of them, we should pay attention. The disenfranchised wallflowers of yesterday’s indie scene may be the life of tonight’s party.