FRESH WAX: Christ, Lord; Turf War

Christ, Lord - Live at Criminal Records

Christ, Lord
Live at Criminal Records
[Criminal Records, 2013]

★★★★☆


Purchase This Album:
Amazon

I wouldn’t call Christ, Lord’s music cinematic per se, but I’d argue that it’s highly visual much in the same manner a well-written novel can lead an imaginative mind to sight. They’re a band rich with details and musical allusions, and every song comes with an inherent sense of built-in storybook drama. Of course, when you’re trading in relatively arcane gypsy-inflected folk and jazz music like Christ, Lord does, the chances of that drama becoming overwhelmingly theatrical and degrading into kitsch is dangerously high. But while their music remains in large degree fanciful and melodramatic, it rarely succumbs to excessive self-indulgence or arty pretense.

Listening to Live at Criminal Records, the second in a series of live recordings released by the venerable local record store, I’m first struck by how deftly the band controls their performance. There are plenty of opportunities for unconstrained excess, and in lesser hands this certainly would’ve resulted in some ham-fisted musical turns. But over the course of 23 minutes, the various members stroll, sway and sashay their way through six simply beautiful songs, each beat, rhythm, chord and note unfolding with a precision that feels loose and organic. Tracks like opener “Queen Liz” and the stormy “Leda” are elegant exercises in patience, spacing and restraint, with each instrument (and there are a lot of them here) making the most of their spotlight moments. Elsewhere, “Oyster” sounds like the Decemberists covering the Doors, the exotic dance of the music locking in perfect sync with frontman Christian Ballew’s deep, sultry croon.

As a relatively low-budget live document, Live at Criminal Records sounds surprisingly crisp and full; every instrument cuts through cleanly and the layering is excellent, even on my mediocre work speakers. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this record, but it certainly wasn’t the dynamic, masterfully-articulated force that I’m confronted with here. I’ve always respected the band immensely as songwriters, but it’s possible they’re even better as performers. All I know is I’m jonesing to see these guys live again. Until then, this one’s staying on heavy rotation.

More Info:
Web: www.christcommalord.com
Bandcamp: www.christlord.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/christcommalord
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ElvisChriist

Turf War - The Great Escape
Turf War
The Great Escape
[Self-released, 2013]

★★★½☆


Purchase This Album:
Bandcamp

When Turf War released Years of Living Dangerously in 2011 the directive seemed simple: write earnest, hard-charging basement show anthems for the beer-swillin’ set. That the band could ably craft memorable hooks on top of so much raucous noise seemed almost a bonus—the point was in the emotions, the feeling, the attitude that Turf War engendered.

On the band’s latest effort, the four-song The Great Escape EP, the directive remains much the same. The comparisons to the Replacements rowdy, booze-infested rock aren’t going away anytime soon, and the band seems as intent at whipping fans into a feverish, fist-pumping frenzy as ever. But, oh man, there’s just no denying these boys’ ability to craft some insanely catchy garage-punk or the barreling, snot-nosed conviction with which they unleash their music. Crank up the blistering one-two punch of “Born to Run Free” and “The Great Escape” or the invigorating jolt of “Pay My Dues” and tell me you don’t to throw back some whiskeys and scream along until your voice gives out. Some bands get by on energy and enthusiasm, even less get by on great hooks. Turf War is the rare band that delivers both, and they do so in spades.

More Info:
Tumblr: www.turfwar.tumblr.com
Bandcamp: www.turfwarusa.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/turfwarusa
Twitter: www.twitter.com/TURFWARUSA