By Jef With One F
By Rocks Off
By Chris Lane
By Angelica Leicht
By Corey Deiterman
By Angelica Leicht
By Corey Deiterman
On the other hand, it's only rock and roll.
Tell that to Barkmarket guitarist, lyricist and singer Dave Sardy.
"The music industry and media, over the course of time, by appealing to the lowest common denominator, is making people more and more stupid, and more and more expecting things to be easy and easily digestible. We're trying to get away from that as much as possible. And plenty of people seem to be into it, so..."
So... the Brooklyn-based four-piece (Sardy, bassist John Nowlin, drummer Rock Savage and sound-man Greg Gordon) finds itself with three indie releases behind it, a contract with Rick Rubin's American Recordings, a new CD called Gimmick, and a national small-club tour offering the band the opportunity to scream its idea of rock into a lot of impressionable young faces. It's an ugly idea, but it's not without its referents, stretched though they may be.
"We're pulling off Lightnin' Hopkins, Little Walter, Robert Johnson. That's the kind of stuff we listen to," says Sardy. "There's more fuckin' weird rhythm changes in acoustic blues -- one measure of five, one measure of seven, one measure of two -- it's all between the fingers. Rock and roll kind of evened it all out, made it into 4/4. We're trying to bring that all back. I mean, I love Black Sabbath -- I just recently got into them -- but Hopkins had more power in his thumb. You look at the notation and it was all over the place. The shit grooves, but it's not in 4/4. That's when I started getting into unrounded song forms. Not that we're trying to imitate that -- we're just trying to branch out and find our own thing."
I tell Sardy I don't think it likely that anyone will confuse Gimmick with the recorded work of Robert Johnson.
"Yeah, but it's probably closer to Robert Johnson than to fuckin' Nirvana."
And in some key ways, it is.
The songs on Gimmick have an obviously modern industrial edge, topped off by Sardy's unpleasant screaming and accented with tape samples, banjos and amplifier noise, but what pleasure they hold is the pleasure of the unexpected. Sardy leads you through these tunes by the nose, changing rhythm and tempo where it's not supposed to change. The better lyrics do the same. "Hack It Off" combines every stereotype of the romantic ballad ("Don't stop your lovin' give me some of that good lovin'") and the rap boast ("I am the baddest man, don't mess me up I'm mad") and strings them up on a framework of the nastiest sarcasm four boys from the ugly borough of Brooklyn can muster. At their failed-experiment worst, Barkmarket's songs have all the appeal of a jackhammered sidewalk outside a bedroom window on a Sunday morning. At their best, they are a viably unpredictable alternative to all that is oppressively pretty.
Lest anyone think that a few blues-derived tempo oddities are going to shake the foundations of rock and roll and turn the kids from sheep into experimental thinkers, Sardy's got a story.
"We played a show the other night, and for the encore they wanted us to play "Pencil" off the last album. I couldn't remember the words for the life of me, so we had these two kids come up from the audience, we handed them the mike and they sang the whole thing because they knew all the lyrics. Every night we play, there's like five to ten kids who know every word to every song ... who sit there and want to fuckin' learn them."
Which seems to baffle Sardy just a bit. That probably never happened to Lightnin' Hopkins.
Barkmarket plays at Goat's Head Soup Friday, January 28. Call 520-7625 for info.