Gen Why received a lot of acclaim this year when singer and guitarist James McDowell II broke up a white supremacist invasion at a White Oak Music Hall punk show. Though McDowell was certainly not the first in the Houston music scene to make a stand against the rather obnoxious conservative fascism that has invaded our city’s punk like crotch-rot, he is one of the most dynamic voices.
He and his band recently dropped both a music video and a debut EP, both titled “Rotten Few.” Filmed at Black Bodega and directed by John Gordon Hale, the video is a raucous good time that cements Gen Why as one of the top punk acts in H-Town.
“Rotten Few” is a classic punk video. It’s all beers, high speed playing, pits and leather. The band does a few grimacing tough guy struts at the beginning, but the main event is a party where they absolutely destroy live.
In general, performance videos are among the most boring, something that Gen Why manages to avoid. Part of that is Hale’s gift for clever camera shots, editing and lighting. He avoids the lazy tricks so many directors do and instead keeps things tight as a snare drum. He’s also got a knack for playful touches that simply make watching his work fun.
Credit has to go to the band members though, who leave nothing on the table. A great performance video should allow you to get a feel for the strength of the band as an on-stage entity. McDowell stands out in particular with his simple but technically marvelous guitar playing. He’s never going to be confused for a virtuoso, but what he can do with a few notes is amazing. When he takes a lead his hands become video stars all their own. He’s matched easily by a fantastic rhythm section that fills breakdowns with thunder and doom that makes “Rotten Few” ballsier than an umpire’s pouch.
Check out the video below.
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As for the corresponding EP, it’s definitely worth your time. It’s heads and shoulders above the band’s previous online offerings, featuring a slick production value that doesn’t detract from the raw power of the material. There are no hiding flaws under sludge here. You get every note and spitted lyric exactly as Punk Rock Jesus intended.
The band is at its best when it’s running at full tilt boogie, though they do explore some slower moments in tunes like “Beer Run” (not for very long, though). While the EP is completely punk rock orthodoxy, there are divergent touches that transcend the ordinary. The bass line in “43 Percent” alone is an exercise in head-pounding beauty. There are no duds in this short fight club of a release.
Rotten Few is available on BandCamp now.