So the Soldiers of Fortune’s Early Risers arrived on my desk with two bold claims, the first was that they had just received a 9/10 from Uncut magazine and the second a band statement from Brad Truax (some of you will know him better as the touring bassist in Interpol these days) that this was the anti-band with the boast that ‘they were never gonna write songs, never gonna practice, never gonna record music, make any product for public consumption or ever hit the road’! A bold claim perhaps but one that can only be made in retrospect once you’ve broken all those promises, if they hadn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.
The band is made up of Brad Truax alongside Kid Millions, Barry London and Papee Crazee of Onieda, Mike Bones and Matt Sweeney (Zwan) and this anti-band, basically a bunch of guys who first got together (or not depending how much you listen to Brad Truax) in 2004 to jam are joined by a whole host of guest vocalists on this, their second album released on the Mexican Summer label.
The label itself seems the perfect home for Soldiers of Fortune as it has inspired them to actually move from being a bunch of guys hanging out, drinking beer and jamming together (which let’s face it this surely is what an anti-band is otherwise surely we are all in the biggest super group anti band of all time) and thank goodness they have because this album is worth every second of your time to listen to.
Oh yeah, the second claim, the 9/10 from Uncut magazine. This is a magazine I have always liked but in recent times it has favoured more and more Americana albums so I was initially nervous of what to expect. That trepidation lasted exactly 3 seconds into opening song “Nails” – it blew me and any preconceptions I may have had, away. The band comes on a like a psych rock demented Motorhead. Its rock, its fast and its fun; the catchy chorus even a bit reminiscent Ballroom Blitz. Exhilarating, not what I expected, it hammers away at your subconscious. Slightly stoner rock it also has the first of what is going to prove to be the albums signature solos.
With the second track, “Cinnamon Man”, we have a change of style. I am not sure if it is meant as an accompaniment piece to Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” but it certainly has that Crazy Horse feel to the song. With a solid rhythm section playing psych rock and a 60’s solo over the top of the music.
On “Campus Swagger” we have the first of our guest vocalist and this is someone I have been a long-time admirer of; Stephen Malkmus (Pavement, Stephen and Malkmus and the Jicks). This is good time rock and roll. “Sparks fly easily”. SM suits it well giving it some Little Richard high pitched singing at time. It will definitely get you dancing along. Simply put it is an old style dance song.
“Dog Tooth Down” is the first of the anti-band jams. It almost starts like the rehearsal tapes where you played (or chanced upon) something cool whilst playing with your mates and then listened back to it on repeat ad infimum, laughing. And it is in that spirit you can feel it and enjoy it. Kicks into a song about half way through, Very MC5, early grunge feel/garage rock. You can’t but smile when you listen to it. Half way through the song jam transforms into a great song which is complimented by Ethan Miller of Howling Rain who takes on the vocal duties and the growly, slightly unhinged vocals suits this jam well.
The following track “Pure Shame” is another garage jam and yet another song that is going to get you drumming along but this time with very little vocals Breaks into a lot of feedback. Reminds you of what being in a band is all about.
What I like most about this album, apart from the psych rock garage feel is that there is so much versatility to the tracks. There is a lot of familiarity in each song, the driving psych rhythms, and guitar solos that weave in out and out of every track on the album, sometimes in front of the band sometimes behind but always there but such a variety of styles included in the album. “Fatigues” and “Santa Monica” are brilliant examples of this. With “‘Santa Monica” you are treated to a completely laid back, spoken word Jim Morrison start. Feels like a middle of the night confessional before it breaks into a full on Doors-ish jam. Has that nigh time, hot sweaty claustrophobic feel. Whereas “Fatigues”‘ funk guitar beginning has slight disco feel to it. The vocals of Soldiers of Fortune’s “Crazee Again” really enhance the song. The vocal are double layered vocals at points giving it a bit of a gang feel and it ends with another great guitar solo. Strange this isn’t the song SM played on but the most Pavementy song on the album for me. Add some Velvet Underground guitar, and slight top end distortion on the solo and it is another perfect track.
“Kall Me Kaos” is another song I love. Punk drum start, upbeat guitars. Black Rebel Motorcyle Clubish, slightly Ramonish. Sounds dark and dirty. Group vocals, pounding rhythm, more new York than southern rock. Short and punchy. What more do you need?
“Which” is the album closer and it’s a great song perhaps one of the strongest on the album. Brilliant example of psych rock in the vein of Captain Beefheart. For me it has all the ingredients to stand up alongside that great mans work. Repetitive solid rhythm, vocals slightly spoken, just layered at the same volume as the music. In contemporary style, think an American Hookworms. I just love the mid song break and build back up, brings in a great solo guitar of the top, lyrics that match, hallucination, belonging. Its builds and builds, the solo continues, the vocals get more intense, (mushrooms clouds and midnight hours).
I have heard the band described as southern rock but I would say that the Brooklyn feel to the album is much more prevalent although it does have lots of great psych rock moments. Its dirty, it rocks, it goes into jams which make you smile. If this is anti-band, I want them to keep on bucking the system for the next album. This is a band I would love to go and see live, if they can be bothered or conform enough to actually go on tour. The only question remaining is why Uncut did not give it 10/10.
Soldiers of Fortune: bandcamp