Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Weeks In Gutter Gaunt Gangster

The Weeks
As a holdover to their upcoming Southern rock/sludge pop album slated for early 2013, The Weeks put out an extraordinarily sharp albeit under-the-radar EP a few weeks ago. It does a fine job mapping out the continuous progression being made by the band that once hailed from Jackson, Mississippi.

With two additional songs added to the rerelease of the original six, Gutter Gaunt Gangster is ambitious enough to be a full length while retaining its EP status. And, with the possible exception of the 50-second Southern folk ditty Goodbye Winston Churchill, there isn't anything quiet about it.

Gutter Gaunt Gangster with The Weeks.

Gutter Gaunt Gangster is all about roots and change. Change because the EP took the band from Jackson, Mississippi, to Nashville and a label change from Esperanza Plantation to Serpents and Snakes, the new label founded by Kings of Leon. Most of the changes occurred over the last two years.

In addition to the new label and base, The Weeks have added Admiral Collier on piano, organ, and vocals, bringing the band back to five members for the first time since 2009. The fuller sound suits the founding members Cyle Barnes (vocals) and Cain Barnes (drums), Samuel Williams (guitar), and Damien Bone (bass).

What hasn't changed is that Cyle Barnes is a dynamic songwriter who cut his teeth at the age of 14 playing any bar that that would let him, his twin brother, and other band members in the front door (and a few more inclined to let them in the back way). This gave The Weeks more than a three-year head start before their debut album Comeback Cadillac (although Olympic Records pressed Dog Days back in 2006).

The roots aspect of the EP is especially notable on Slave To The South. Although some people give props to Stigmata (produced with Justin Louck and Ian Fitchuk), Slave To The South remains my favorite. The track, cut while they were still in Jackson, is all about being born in Mississippi.

"I'm a slave to the South, there's a curse on this house. I've been dying to leave, but I just can't get out."

The song captures a sentiment that pushes Cyle Barnes beyond his years. You don't even have to be from the South to appreciate it. We all feel stuck sometimes. The difference for The Weeks is they did something about it.

The other track that epitomizes the band is The House We Grew Up In, with its uncanny ability to meld Cyle Barnes' Southern rock vocals with pop melodies backed by hooks and sludge. One of their favorites to play, it picks up on the sound they strive for — pop music played at the bottom of a swamp.  (Personally, I prefer the original cut but this one still works well enough.)

Stigmata, which is frequently listed as a standout, is a slow-moving Southern brooder. It takes advantage of the smokiest stylings of The Weeks. It is a beautifully composed and arranged track, even if my leanings are more in sync with the band's raunchier and less restrained songs.

You can get a sense of that with the bust out I've Broken All Your Windows, which wavers back and forth between Southern blues smooth and big Southern rock choruses. Harmony and I'm Not Dead Yet also lend well to the band's six-year pursuit of having a good time while still delivering on desperation.

The diversity is what sometimes makes the band polarizing in that people either love them or hate them.  Expect more people to love them in the months and years ahead. As the members mature, everything they play is meatier and more meaningful. Collier will only add to that. (Agree if you've ever seen him.)

Gutter Gaunt Gangster Is The Weeks At 6.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Gutter Gaunt Gangster isn't new for anyone who knows the band, but it does make for a great introduction for anyone who doesn't. As long as the band keeps close to its Southern roots without drifting too far over into pop territory, their next album has every chance to be on the radar.

You can pick up Gutter Gaunt Gangster by The Weeks on iTunes or look for Gutter Gaunt Gangster on Amazon. Barnes & Noble also carries the CD. The original 12" vinyl edition did not include the new version of The House We Grew Up In or Goodbye Winston Churchill. Recently, the band pulled off a successful series of shows in London. You can check on their current show schedule on Facebook.
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