I know that American Fangs finally put out an LP last year, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. For me, though, the band was made for their famous string of hard, fast EPs that feel like a combination short story and psychotic's manifesto. They've got another album coming out next year (date TBD), but Houstonians have a chance to pick up a the latest offering, Dirty Legs, this weekend as a limited-edition pressing. Is it worth it?
Few bands in Houston that can match the Fangs for pure, driven energy. They approach the rage of metal without ever once stepping over the line, which is important to avoid if you're going to hold onto a certain musical heritage.
A lot of that is Gabriel Cavazos on the vocals. He maintains a straining croon that may not win him any acclaim in classical appreciation, but he takes that range and wields it like a war hammer. From the moment he begins to preach in "Slavery Wedding" he it's full-on mortal combat, almost like he takes every single lyric personally.
The gem of the EP is definitely "Death of Me," although at first it comes across kind of pedestrian. Much of the chord structure and the chorus might as well be lifted from the beginning of the last decade and slapped on a Tony Hawk video game.
However, once you get down in the trenches of the song, the band shows some real exploration. The rhythm section really shines in the groove between Micah Miller and Kyle Shimek, who form a team as tight as acrobats in simple, but utterly compelling poundings that are strong enough for Cavazos to take some real chances. He goes almost spoken-word, channeling a little Jello Biafra without ever sounding like a Muppet to do it.
Dirty Leg not the most dynamic EP ever released, of course, but there are a few tiny shake-ups. "Black Eyed" is a nice mid-album change of pace that feels like one of the Izzy Stradlin tracks from one of the Use Your Illusions. It kind of makes you yearn for a little more deviation from the Fangs' norm, though. Even though they play around a little bit, going almost in a Broadway direction, there's still that reliance on the inertia of the forward roll that comes across like a shield from deeper work.
Story continues on the next page.
You don't expect subtly from this group, though, and God knows there is precious little. "Bukkake Summer" is almost eye-rollingly puerile at times when you pay attention to what is being said. It's songs like that which make you appreciate American Fangs as an EP band. Like most of Dirty Legs it's short, though in this case it's a blessing instead of a curse.
They shine much better on "Brazilian Axe," a track that doesn't quite hit the arena-anthem status it's clearly aiming for but still gets the blood boiling. Not to reinforce the Guns N' Roses connection again, but when it started up I wondered if I was going to hear a cover of "Get In the Ring" for a second. A look at some of the more operatic and sectional music of the '90s might make for some fodder for more ambitious work in the future.
It's a minor quibble, though. You can't help but like the unlubricated way Dirty Legs comes correct. It's brawl music; and fuck music; and fast-car music; and burn, burn, burn-it-all down music. They always have been, and they still are.
American Fangs release a special pressing of Dirty Legs only available at their show Friday, November 27 at Fitzgerald's with Los Skarnales and Debauche. Full release in 2015
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.