Drivin’ N Cryin’ is embarking on an interesting sonic trip, with plans to release 4 EPs over the next year. Songs From The Laundromat is the first chapter – five tunes recorded on their home turf in Atlanta, GA with frontman/guitarist/vocalist Kevn Kinney handling production chores. The EP marks the studio debut of guitarist Sadler Vaden, who joined the band just last year but meshes with Kinney and bandmates Tim Nielsen (bass) and Dave V. Johnson (drums) like he’d been doing it for a decade or two.
The plan for the series of EPs: work with a theme (this is the band’s rock album); move around and bring some different people in for each one; lay ‘em down; turn ‘em out; move on to the next one. Can it work? Well … chapter one sure as hell does.
The album-opening “Dirty” comes banging and crashing out of the hole like an early Rory Gallagher tune: big ol’ ear-grabbing guitar intro; an ominous warning from Nielsen’s bass; a countdown on the cymbal and – wham – Kinney launches into a call-it-like-I-sees-it-and-I-like-what-I-sees vocal that’s already sweaty before the first verse is over. A thrash-and-tumble bridge; a return to the opening riff; and then a few seconds of let-the-snot-fly guitar. One more verse and chorus; back to the thrash and tumble – over and out, baby. 3:28 later, their work is done. Next!
“Ain’t Waitin’ On Tomorrow” rides in on the back of Johnson’s bass drum pedal and some stark, stripped-to-the-bone guitar. When the tune’s main riff comes slamming in at the 34-second mark, it feels like it’s drenched in greasy Z.Z. Top-style BBQ sauce. Kinney screams like a madman when they hit the break; so does the guitar. The madness hangs on ‘til the end.
“Baloney” is just sheer punk madness, too fast to make any sense and probably fun as hell to play for the 32 seconds it lasted. And “Clean Up”? Well, “Clean Up” is one of those tunes that every self-respecting rock ‘n’ roll band should put together: cool guitar hook right at the intro (all bright and sunshiny with a momentary minor twist at the end); a couple of deep-as-you-want-them-to-be verses; a perfect 15-second guitar break that walks up the neck in string-tugging steps before giving way to a few moments of reflection prior to the outro. Nice.
The best cut of all on Songs From The Laundromat is “R.E.M.” – and not only is it exactly what you think it is, it’s done just exactly the way it should be. The jingle-jangle guitars set the mood, but it’s Nielsen’s driving bass and Johnson’s drums swaying easily from jungle thump to cool locomotive that define “R.E.M.” “This is a public service announcement,” Kinney chants at the end – acknowledging the end of that world as we know it.
To come: an EP of “songs from the secret landscape of the American psyche”; a nod to Drivin’ N Cryin’s punk roots; and then – “you’ll have to wait and see!” says the press release.
Bring it on, men.