Pop in the latest LP from five-piece Indian Wars and you’d likely not pick up on their Vancouver, BC origins. Lines like “let’s go down south to Mississippi / watch that muddy water slowly pass me by” and other such Southern-fried business roll off of vocalist Brad Felotick’s tongue like molasses: homey, familiar, and sometimes so strong that it overpowers the entire dish.
The group-shouted garage rock twist on “Denny” masks the potential triteness of a handful of Canadians appropriating Bonanza old-Westiness that is evident in the band’s name. The talk of a “dead man walking” and isolated angst fits the theme, leaving the band to play from the back of a dusty saloon, rather than from a bar. Take out the honky-tonk piano of “Wastin’ Time”, speed things up a tad, and you’ve got yourself a King Khan cut, but Felotick’s whiskey-blown, rough-hewn delivery, and that waggling guitar solo stand their ground. Western garage rock isn’t new, but it’s an avenue that can work.
Sometimes the by-the-numbers roots rock stuff is just too good to deny, though, a shot of sarsaparilla dripping down the back of your throat. The thundering gallop of “There and Back Again” should make you want to “watch the leaves fall from the trees / dance around in the wind.” Then again, “Mississippi”, featuring those lyrics in the intro, is a bit too on the nose for these guys. The light breeze of harmonica blowing in the background, the walking bass line, the rough-hewn, whiskey-blown vocal delivery… it’s all exactly what you’d expect from the genre, and a bit stale. Riding the line between genre staple and innovation is a difficult task, and one that Indian Wars handles with an amicable fight.
Essential Tracks: “There and Back Again”, “Denny”