Bones a-jingle when we fall
But little red drops are no obstacle
For I would bury myself to hold you darling
I would bury myself to hold you darling
Okay, okay, I know I begin far too many reviews with a choice lyrical quote which I then expand and expound upon – it’s a habit carried over from academia, but it works, in this case particularly so. This case? Archie Bronson Outfit Derdang Derdang from back in 2006. Those lyrics from ‘Cuckoo’ give you a bit of the taste of the taut, wired, sexually obsessive atmosphere of the LP.
But let’s dial it back a notch, who is Archie Bronson? and what does his outfit look like? I hear you ask. Well he was actually a 19th Century publican and anti-slavery campaigner from Bristol. all so good; unfortunately Bronson had something of an eye for the ladies and was eventually shot dead by his wife whilst in bed with both his mistresses. There was, apparently, a popular tavern ballad at the time called ‘The Woe Ballad of Knave Bronson’, which I think is pretty damn cool. Now as for his outfit? judged solely by the music on Derdang Derdang, I’d go for scuffed dusty working boots, threadbare tight black jeans worn with a skinny black open shirt and a pirate earring. True story.
I got Derdang Derdang because ‘Cuckoo’ was featured as the iTunes free track of the week, way back when – I went through a phase of always downloading them, more as an act of faith than of hope but suddenly I stumbled across this dried-up, rickety skeleton of a sex pest that I just couldn’t get enough of. The melodies were rasping and sweet, the female backing vox acting as a Greek-chorus, sweetening the pained obsessive lyrics, ‘ Just dust and lust now measure my bones’. I clearly remember listening to it on my morning commute, compulsively hitting repeat – repeat – repeat all the way to work and getting in late because I stopped outside to hear it one more time. It was ancient and very modern sounding all at once, with a real undercurrent of malice.
When the LP arrived I was very happy to note that it was more of the same and I mean that in a good way. Right from the first few seconds of ‘Cherry Lips’ when Mark Cleveland’s deftly swinging drum beats join in with the guitar’s insistent strum, you just know that a) you’re in safe hands and b) this is not going to be an easy ride. Sam Windett sings every second of every song here as if his very mortal soul depended upon it in some convoluted ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ -type scenario*. That’s not even mentioning the, self-styled, ‘Mad horns’ that crash in courtesy of Duke Garwood, further unhinging everything later on. The playing throughout is superb, ‘tight’ doesn’t even begin to cover this three-piece, Sam Widgett’s guitar and Dorian Hobday’s bass just mesh perfectly, you couldn’t change a single note to improve it.
It’s a little difficult to describe the music in reference to other acts, there’s a bit of Sons and Daughters circa Repulsion Box, a smidgen of The Gun Club Fire of Love, but that’s all. They supported Black Keys, but much as I dig those Akron boys, they’re far too smooth to bear comparison to this animal. This is a little meaner, less sure, none of them could have produced as frenzied a beast as ‘Got to Get (Your Eyes)’, which is surely the sound of real, monumental passion gone wrong – that moment when someone realizes that they’ve gone so far, that they can no longer return to the normal. On a similar, umm, tip is ‘Dart For My Sweetheart’, a stone-cold erotomania-fuelled** countdown to an inevitable bad outcome,
One is a gun with a dart for my sweetheart
Two only you can remove such an ache-heart
Three let me see what you’ve got, what you’re made of, what you’re not
Four is sore, just a ripped and bloody claw
Five is a punching fist that’s within me
Six little stitches thread right through my heart
Seven shining reasons tearing us apart
Eight loose your hate, it’s a game come on love me it’s your fate
Nine cold crimes in the night please forgive me
Ten are the tears that are frozen on your face
Eleven I know I’m not your favourite man
Twelve I’ll take you like only I can
This is just a fabulous, twitchy vase of chaos, so good that a softer, more insidious, version ‘Harp For My Sweetheart’ closes the LP. As a happy ending it is sublimely, disturbingly unconvincing. Personally I don’t think music gets a whole lot better than this. Word up.
There are times, ‘Modern Lovers’ (I suppose we’re modern lovers / we meet and we fuck and we don’t hear each other), when it gets a bit much, a bit too relentless and abandoned, but then these are leavened by the sultry, danceable ‘Dead Funny’ and the comparatively gentle ‘Cuckoo’. However, the respite never lasts long and we’re straight back in the saddle with ‘Jab Jab’, the closest thing here to a rocker, ‘You’ve got to know loss before you’re ready to burn’ – gulp! With ‘Rituals’ the band step close to more traditional blues roots, the swampy guitar and drums conjuring the fog, rain, tears and, umm, fur; or at least that is until it accelerates to an increasingly discordant shuddering climax, that must register somewhere on the Richter scale.
Overlooked when it was released, I remember this LP being feted on all the end-of-year magazine polls, but something this vitriolic and ragged was never going to hit big and so it didn’t. I think Derdang Derdang is a genuinely great LP though. If you’ve stomach enough for the ride then, come on in.
P.S – I made the whole thing about Archie Bronson up, I think it’s just a fictional name. had you though didn’t I?
*or a ‘Race With the Devil’ -type scenario, for fellow Roxx Gang fans. Or is that just me?
**the delusion that the, sometimes (but not always) psychosis-afflicted, sufferer holds an unshakable belief that another person is secretly in love with him/her and communicating it by secret means and/or powers.